Regular consumption of dairy foods may prevent late macular degeneration, a study by the Centre for Vision Research (CVisR) has suggested.
Using data from the 15-year Blue Mountains Eye Study, the CVisR has investigated the relationship between consumption of milk, cheese and yogurt and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The research was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in May.
“We found that over a 15-year period, people who consumed less than one serve of dairy a day had a higher risk of developing late AMD compared to people who consumed more than two-and-three-quarter serves of dairy a day,” lead CVisR researcher Bamini Gopinath said.
We found that over a 15-year period, people who consumed less than one serve of dairy a day had a higher risk of developing late AMD…
The Blue Mountains Eye Study, which monitored the eye health and nutrition of more than 3,500 Australians, established eye health with baseline data and re-examinations at two five-year intervals using retinal photographs of the macula.
These have been graded for the presence of early and late AMD. Early AMD is defined as the presence of either large indistinct soft or reticular drusen or both large distinct soft drusen and retinal pigmentary abnormalities. Late AMD is defined as the appearance of neovascular AMD or geographic atrophy.
Dr. Gopinath said it was unclear which of the 10 essential nutrients found in dairy was responsible for the protection against late AMD.
“Many of the nutrients found in dairy products could underlie the observed beneficial effect, including calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, dairy protein and a broad range of fatty acids,” she said.
“In particular Vitamin D and Vitamin B have properties that could protect against the development of the disease.”
There is accumulating evidence that regular consumption of dairy foods could counteract the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
“Given that systemic risk factors such as obesity and cardiovascular risk factors have also been linked with AMD there is a potential for regular consumption of dairy products to modify the risk of AMD in older adults,” Dr. Gopinath said.
She said while further validation and clinical trials were required, the research suggested that simple dietary changes for people at risk of AMD could be a possible strategy to diminish the health and economic burden of the disease.
Federal government guidelines recommend three serves of dairy a day for most adults. This increases to four serves a day for women over the age of 50 and men over 70.
The Macular Disease Foundation Australia welcomes the publication of this research, which has been supported by the Foundation’s Research Grants Program through the Blackmores Dr. Paul Beaumont Fellowship, with funding from Blackmores, the Marcus Blackmore Foundation and Macular Disease Foundation Australia.
Julie Heraghty, CEO of the Macular Disease Foundation said “This important research again highlights the critical role that diet plays in the development and progression of macular degeneration.
“While further work is required before any public health advice suggests any increase in dairy consumption, it seems reasonable to reassure people with age related-macular degeneration that they should continue to consume the recommended amounts of dairy products as part of a healthy, well balanced diet,” she said.