Spinach Could Prevent Age-Related Eye Condition
Eating leafy green vegetables could stop the development of macular degeneration.
An Australian study has found that people who regularly eat leafy greens rich in nitrates could have a significantly reduced risk of developing early-stage age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of sight loss.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is common cause of vision loss in people over age 50. It affects the central part of the retina. Although it doesn’t cause total sight loss, it can make everyday activities, such as reading or watching TV, very difficult, and gets worse over time.
Dietary nitrates are found mainly in beetroot and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale, and contribute to the production of nitric oxide in the body. Underproduction or overproduction of nitric oxide has been identified as a possible cause of several eye diseases.
This study from researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia was the first to investigate the potential influence of dietary nitrates on AMD.
The researchers compiled data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a population-based study of adults aged 49 and older from a region west of Sydney, Australia.
Between 2002 and 2004, more than 2,000 participants completed dietary questionnaires and had eye examinations, including retinal photographs to check for AMD, which were repeated 15 years later.
Lower disease risk
Analysis of the 15-year results revealed that people who ate 100–142 milligrams of vegetable nitrates each day had a 35% lower risk of developing early-stage AMD than people who ate less than 69 milligrams a day.
The research did not show any additional benefits for people who consumed more than 142 milligrams of vegetable nitrates each day, or identify any significant connections between vegetable nitrates and late-stage AMD.
The authors believe that their results, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have important implications for disease prevention.
Lead Researcher Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath from the Westmead Institute and the University of Sydney said: “This is the first time the effects of dietary nitrates on macular degeneration risk has been measured. If our findings are confirmed, incorporating a range of foods rich in dietary nitrates – like green leafy vegetables and beetroot – could be a simple strategy to reduce the risk of early macular degeneration.”
Further studies are now needed to confirm this potentially valuable link between vegetable nitrate intake and the development of AMD.
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