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High-Fat Diet Linked to Macular Degeneration

A surprising medical study has found a strong link between a high-fat diet and shrinking vision in aging baby boomers. Medical correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin has the story.

Seventy-seven-year-old Ruth York has trouble driving at night and can't read without a magnifying glass. She's got age-related macular degeneration, and what's she doing about it?

"I've changed my diet considerably," says York. "l eat more fruits and vegetables--particularly green veggies."

It may seem like a strange treatment for eye disease, but a new study finds a strong link between macular degeneration and a diet high in saturated fat.

The study looked at the diets of 349 people diagnosed in the last year and found that they consumed more of the so-called bad fats found in chips, cakes, cookies, and processed foods than a control group.

Study author Dr. Johanna Seddon says, "Dietary fat intake is associated with age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in elderly individuals."

In age-related macular degeneration, the macula, which is responsible for central vision, becomes damaged. Doctors don't know what causes it, but they speculate it has something to do with blood flow in the eye.

"There is some common thread between the risk factors associated with heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and the risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration," says Seddon.

In addition, the study found that the same fats that are "good" for your heart are also good for your eyes--those found in fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Ophthalmologists like Dr Jay Wisnicki find the research convincing.

"We should all be more careful about our diets and this is just one more organ system--the eye--that has now been linked to fat intake," sys Wisnicki.

Age-related macular degeneration is particularly troubling because there's no known cure. The hope is linking the disease to diet may help doctors see more clearly how to prevent it.
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