CHICAGO, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- People who adhere to a fruit-heavy Mediterranean diet are a third less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, scientists say.
Researchers made the case for fruit's potency in combating age-related macular degeneration in a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Researchers say it is also the first study to suggest caffeine may be particularly helpful in protecting against the disease.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition that typically affects individuals over the age of 50. The disease causes damage to the small spot near the center of the retina, which the body uses for sharp, central vision. In rare cases, AMD has been found to contribute to blindness.
According to the authors of the study, a diet that emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish drastically reduces the risk for developing AMD later in life. To test their hypothesis, investigators from the University of Coimbra in Portugal surveyed 883 people on their dietary habits, 449 of whom had AMD.
Among those who did not closely follow the Mediterranean diet, 50 percent had AMD, compared to 39 percent of those who closely followed the diet. Fruits were found to be especially beneficial; 54.5 percent of individuals who consumed about five ounces or more per day did not have AMD.
Caffeine consumption was also examined. While not necessarily part of the Mediterranean diet, researchers say it is an anti-oxident known to protect against conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
"This research adds to the evidence that a healthy, fruit-rich diet is important to health, including helping to protect against macular degeneration," lead researcher Rufino Silva said in a press release.
Silva went on to add his findings may open the door for developing more effective preventive medicine for AMD.