Sugar, Inflammation and Macular Degeneration

Nutrition ChoiceYou have Macular Degeneration.” It’s the terrifying four word phrase that millions of Americans have already heard and millions of others will hear during their lifetimes. Today, AMD blinds more Americans than cataracts and glaucoma combined. So why is this blinding disease so prevalent in today’s society? Modern research has found that internal inflammation, which is exacerbated by certain foods, plays a role in the development and/or progression of AMD.

When one pictures inflammation, the first thing that comes to mind is swelling, bruising or redness. Normally, the body’s healing process comes to the rescue and eventually swelling alleviates and redness disappears. However, the type of  inflammation that can increase the risk of AMD occurs inside the body and silently damages cells, nerves, blood vessels and eyes. In fact, this sort of chronic inflammation has been linked to a number of other diseases including including Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

So, what is the major culprit when it comes to promoting this destructive kind of inflammation? Foods with high glycemic indexes (essentially, high sugar) including white bread, white rice, pasta and white potatoes have been shown to increase this chronic inflammation inside the body. When eaten, such sugary foods cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin production followed by a sudden drop, which promotes the inflammation.

Dr. Allen Taylor, Director of the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging set out to prove that highly glycemic foods can take a serious toll on eye health. Taylor examined the eyes of over 500 women between the ages of 53 to 73 and the results were undeniable. The study found that abnormalities and characteristics of AMD were more than doubled for the subjects who consumed diets with high glycemic indexes, despite other factors including smoking and obesity!

It’s no secret that a balanced diet is critical when it comes to warding off (or entirely preventing) macular degeneration and it should be noted that Dr. Allen’s study is not the first of its kind. There are plenty of scientific articles that confirm the importance of proper nutrition in eye health. The good news is that ditching desserts, soda and white/processed carbohydrates can help to decrease inflammation in the body. Further lessen internal inflammation by sticking to anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, almonds, lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, orange peppers and squash- many of which also provide a serving of eye healthy macular carotenoids.

Have you changed your diet in the name of ocular health? What are some of your snacking staples?

*Ask your doctor if an anti-inflammatory diet is right for you.

15-amd-awareness-month-600Don’t forget! February is AMD Awareness month and we’re donating $1.00 to Optometry Giving Sight or The Center for Visual Rehabilitation at Henry Ford for each and every social post that uses the hashtags #TrustTheScience and #AMDAwareness.

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