Vegetable fat consumption may increase risk of macular degeneration


By Charnicia E. Huggins

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – Decreasing one's intake of certain fats, rather than fats in general, may help lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, according to recent study findings.

Fats commonly found in processed foods may increase an individual's risk of macular degeneration, while fats, such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna, salmon and other coldwater fish, may decrease one's risk, lead author Dr. Johanna M. Seddon of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary told Reuters Health.

Dr. Seddon and her colleagues studied 349 individuals between the ages of 55 and 80 years old who were recently diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. They also looked at a control group of 504 individuals with other eye diseases.

Individuals who reported consuming foods high in vegetable fat had a more than twofold greater risk of developing macular degeneration than the subjects who did not eat much vegetable fat, Dr. Seddon's team reports in the August issue of Archives of Ophthalmology. Those who ate foods high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, had a 71% increased risk and those who ate foods high in polyunsaturated fats, such as margarine, had an 86% increased risk.

On the other hand, people who reported diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in linoleic acid, found in corn and safflower oil, had a decreased risk of the disease, the report indicates.

Foods with high overall levels of all of these potentially harmful fats–vegetable fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and linoleic acid–tend to be processed, store-bought snack foods, Dr. Seddon and her colleagues note.

Arch Ophthalmol 2001;119:1191-1199.

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