antioxidants

A recent study determines potential correlations between dietary intake of antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration with respect to smoking status.

Older individuals are prone to irreversible blindness, a condition often caused by age-related macular degeneration. Risk factors for age-related macular degeneration have been identified as diabetes, consumption of alcohol, genetics, dietary intake, and smoking.

Smoking has been classified as the leading environmental factor contributing to age-related macular degeneration. Toxins found in cigarettes cause the circulating antioxidants within the body to deplete. These risk factors can be counteracted by a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables. A Korean study published by the Nutrition Journal searches for an association between antioxidants, fruit, and vegetable intake, and age-related macular degeneration while accounting for smoking status.

Can Fruits and Vegetables Counteract Depletion of Antioxidants?

Researchers collected the data from 1,414 Korean men aged 65 or older. To do so, they utilized the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2010 and 2012. The survey consisted of three components: a health interview, a health examination, and a nutrition survey. Participants without information on smoking status were excluded from the study. An ophthalmologist diagnosed age-related macular degeneration in patients for at least one eye. Researchers also collected information pertaining to diet and lifestyle choices such as smoking status, alcohol consumption, and use of dietary supplements.

The study identified that an increase in consumption of fruit and vegetables may help protect against age-related macular degeneration. As a result, there may be a negative correlation between increased consumption of antioxidants including alfa-carotene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and prevalence of age-related macular degeneration. Within the scope of this study, the correlation was present in patients who were recognized as active smokers. Any such associations were insignificant among individuals who were former smokers or non-smokers. This means that, among smokers, the risk of macular degeneration decreased as consumption of antioxidants increased.

Correlation Only Evident in Smokers

The research concluded that although antioxidant intake may be protective against age-related macular degeneration, the correlation was only evident in patients who were identified smokers at the time of the study. Nevertheless, the information encourages further research on the topic to potentially identify a dietary preventative method against age-related macular degeneration. Through simple dietary changes, the overall health of the elderly population may be improved and possibly result in fewer cases of irreversible blindness.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja, HBSc

Reference: Kim, E., Kim, H., Vijayakumar, A., Kwon, O., & Chang, N. (2017). Associations between fruit and vegetable, and antioxidant nutrient intake and age-related macular degeneration by smoking status in elderly Korean men. Nutrition Journal, 16(1). doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0301-2

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