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Margarine brings fourfold risk of blindness
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD, damage to the centre of the eye’s retina) increased tenfold 1974-2004 in Australia. It overtook diabetes as the major cause of near blindness there, affecting at least 800,000 people.

Research suggests that it might be prevented or, at the very least, its progress might be slowed, by reducing the processed fat content in the diet. One study found that older people who had a diet high in processed fats had an increased risk of developing AMD. A diet high in processed animal fats brought a twofold risk, a diet high in processed vegetable fat a nearly fourfold risk.

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Founder of Australia’s Macular Degeneration Foundation Professor Paul Beaumont explained: “The oils that you eat become part of your eye, but normally they’re used and flushed out. Researchers believe the eye finds it particularly difficult to biodegrade vegetable oils. They end up blocking the eye’s cells and causing macular degeneration”.

Unprocessed oils in wholefoods
Paul advised that eating fish and nuts was protective and slowed the progression of the disease: “Oils that have not been denatured, such as in whole nuts, seem to be protective. He recommended a diet high in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, dark-green leafy vegetables, and at least one serving of fish and nuts a week. Vitamins C and E, zinc, selenium, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthinare all appear to protect against AMD.

For more information contact the UK’s Macular Disease Society on Tel.: 0845 241 2041.

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(i) Research has confirmed that three to four portions of spinach weekly can reverse at least early AMD. Dr Richer at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Optometry Section in North Chicago (US) tested 14 patients who were showing the first signs of AMD. After just twelve weeks of eating 3-4 portions of spinach a week, the patients showed a 60-80% improvement in their AMD tests. For seven of the eight who had had either a hole or distortion in their vision, the problem either improved or disappeared completely. [1]

(ii) Health-Report’s Geoff Goldie comments: “Our ancestors ate saturated fats and lots of protein with modest amounts of vegetables and fruits. Until recently (in evolutionary terms), the last 100 years, grains (and vegetable oils) were never a significant percentage of most diets in the world, neither were vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are implicated in(many serious diseases, like) heart disease and cancer!”

AMD affects around 30% of people aged 70 plus.

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[1] Journal of the American Optometric Assoc. 1999;70(1):24-36

(10930) Seddon,JM et al. Archives of Ophthalmology 2003;121(12):1728-37