Western Diet No Good For Macular Degeneration

Western Diet No Good For Macular Degeneration

In America, many people eat inexpensive fast foods and packaged, sugar laden, processed, high animal product choices known as ‘the western diet’. This has led to a country struggling with an obesity epidemic as well as other related chronic conditions and illnesses. These include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems like ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), high cholesterol, and high blood pressure (hypertension). 

Scientists are now blaming the western diet for negatively affecting eyesight as well. New research shows that a possible link between a western diet and macular degeneration also puts this blinding disease on the collateral damage list.

An 18 Year Incidence

Researchers from the University at Buffalo, University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health combined study results to determine an 18 year incidence of late stage AMD (age-related macular degeneration) due to unhealthy diet patterns. 

Published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology titled, ‘Diet patterns and the incidence of age-related macular degeneration in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study’ looked at a wide variety of participants and what foods they consumed. It was found that those who ate a diet high in processed meats, fried foods, high-fat dairy and refined grains had no immediate results. “Immediate” is the key word  here. It was reported and concluded that, 

“Western (unhealthy) and Prudent (healthy) dietary patterns were identified. No significant associations were observed between either dietary pattern and incident any or incident early AMD. However, a threefold higher incidence of late AMD was observed among participants with a Western pattern,…consumption of a Western pattern diet may be a risk factor for development of late AMD.”

Researcher Amy Millen commented, 

“Our work provides additional evidence that diet matters, From a public health standpoint, we can tell people that if you have early AMD, it is likely in your best interest to limit your intake of processed meat, fried food, refined grains, and high-fat dairy to preserve your vision over time.”

Writing Was On The Wall

This isn’t the first time that science has looked at how a western diet may affect the possibility of developing late stage AMD. Other studies have warned of this disease possibly being associated with excessive animal products, packaged, and processed food. Researchers from Tufts University, Harvard, and other contributors published the study, ‘The Relationship of Major American Dietary Patterns to Age-related Macular Degeneration’ in the American Journal of Ophthalmology (July 2014) concluding that,  

“Our data indicate that overall diet is significantly associated with the odds of AMD and that dietary management as an AMD prevention strategy warrants further study.”

In this study the diet compared to the western diet was labeled the Oriental diet and described as such, 

“Compared with the Western diet, traditional Asian diets contain substantially more grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, and fish and less red meat, high-fat dairy products, and other animal products, which feature the same eating characteristics with the Oriental diet.”

Today, a healthy diet that is corroborated in many studies to be easily adapted by a mainstream population utilizing the western diet is known as the Mediterranean Diet. Of course a primarily plant-based diet such as veganism does score high on all points of disease prevention, but the general public is still not ready to embrace such a radical change, yet. Someday, when humans have drained the planet of all its resources to maintain factory farming, most societies may not have a choice, a plant-based diet may be the only option left.

Choose The Mediterranean Diet 

Currently, due to a populace more educated on healthy dietary choices, the western diet epidemic may seem to have lessened in severity. However, there are many people who still struggle to break from financial disparity, cultural and religious influence as well as corporate advertising bombardment trying to keep the status quo of western eating to increase their own benefits, namely the bottom line. Therefore, although it might seem obvious to you that eating these manipulated foods is unhealthy, others would rather eat any food that is less expensive, saves time, and just tastes good rather than worrying about the future of their health. 

Many plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian options are becoming more embraced by big box stores and common fast-food restaurants. This includes boxed, frozen, canned choices along with establishments like Burger King introducing their ‘Impossible Whopper’ (made with a non-meat patty) and Dunkin Donuts offering plant-based sausage on their egg sandwich. This is a good step toward healthier eating for macular degeneration but it is still processed, packaged foods that should be subsidized by fresh options as well. The Mediterranean Diet just may help people in difficult scenarios readjust their choices without too much strain on their wallet, schedule, or social status. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reported in 2018 of a European study that investigated “the connection between genes and lifestyle on the development of AMD has found that people who adhered to a Mediterranean diet cut their risk of late-stage AMD by 41 percent.”

It was stated that The Mediterranean Diet consists of  “eating less meat and more fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains, and olive oil.” 

According to Emily Chew, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, who serves on an advisory board to the research group conducting the study.

“You are what you eat, I believe this is a public health issue on the same scale as smoking. Chronic diseases such as AMD, dementia, obesity, and diabetes, all have roots in poor dietary habits. It’s time to take quitting a poor diet as seriously as quitting smoking.”    

After reading the research it is pretty easy to understand why the western diet is no good for macular degeneration. All it takes is a concerted, slow dietary adjustment to gain all the benefits a plant-based or Mediterranean Diet has to offer when it comes to preventing macular degeneration.