Can Mediterranean Diet Reduce Your Chances of Becoming Blind?

Better adherence to a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, according to a study reported in 2016 in Ophthalmology.

 

Background: Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, it is considered incurable. One can compared the human eye to a camera, with the macula the central and most sensitive area of the so-called film. When it is working properly the macula collects highly detailed images at the center of your field of vision and sends the information up the optic nerve to the brain, where we interpret the signals as sight. When the cells of the macula deteriorate, images are not received correctly. While early macular degeneration may not affect your vision, as the disease progresses, you may experience wavy or blurred vision. If the condition continues to worsen, central vision may be completely lost (although peripheral vision may be retained). A Mediterranean diet has been inversely associated with heart attack, stroke, cancer, and mortality. But what about eye health, including macular degeneration?

The Study: Researchers evaluated 5060 patients aged 65 years or older, chosen randomly from centers in Norway, Estonia, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, and Spain between 2001 and 2002. Dietary intake during the previous 12 months was evaluated, which captured information about consumption of items such as olive oil, fish, wine, fruit, legumes, and meat/meat products. All patients had eye exams, including digital retinal photographs, and blood samples were collected to evaluate antioxidant levels (including lutein, zeaxanthin, carotene, and lycopene). In addition, information was collected regarding smoking and alcohol use and environmental exposure. The mean age among participants was 73.6 years, and 55% were women.

Results: The researchers found that, among the 4753 participants with full dietary data, individuals with a high adherence to a Mediterranean diet had the lowest odds of neovascular advanced macular degeneration, dropping their risk by about half.

My Take:  We cannot establish causality between consuming a Mediterranean diet and the risk of macular degeneration. In addition, self-reporting of dietary information may lead to bias. Still, given the good effects of the diet on the risk of heart attack stroke, and cancer, I am gonna go have some Italian food! I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

New: Free apps for Android and iOS (Apple): Search My Breast Cancer by Michael Hunter. Please let me know what you think!

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The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

References: Ophthalmology. Published online November 5, 2016; https://www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration

Want A Long and Healthy Life? Try This…

fruits and vegetables on forks food diet

Want to live a long, healthy life? Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Of course, there is more to it than that, but studies have consistently demonstrated that fruits and vegetables are an important component of a healthy lifestyle. The latest large study is one from Sweden that showed that eating fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is linked with a higher chance of dying early.

The Study: Researchers collected data from more than 71,000 Swedes, ages 45 to 83, who were followed for 13 years. At the beginning of the study, participants responded to a dietary questionnaire and reported how frequently they ate fruits and vegetables. After 13 years of follow-up, 11,439 had died.

Results: Participants who reported no fruit or vegetable intake were 53 percent more likely to die during the follow-up period, compared to those who ate five servings daily. In fact, those who never consumed fruits and vegetables died an average of three years sooner than those who ate plenty of fruits and vegetables.

When analyzed separately, those who ate at least one serving of fruit daily lived 19 months longer than those who never ate fruit; and people who ate at least three servings of vegetables per day liver 32 months longer than those who never ate vegetables. Even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, and body weight, the overall results did not change.

My Take: Five servings seems to be the magic number. This is one of the largest studies to show fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with longer life. The study doesn’t prove that fruit and vegetable consumption will lengthen your life, but it does provide support for the 5 per day recommendation. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter, and it’s grapes and watermelon for me.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

References: awomenshealth.com (Winter 2014); Bellavia A, et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;98(2):454-459.

Does an Apple A Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?

woman eating apple fruit diet nutrition

Apples Are Both Nutritious and Delicious

This is the conclusion of researchers from the United Kingdom. To assess the potential benefits of putting more patients on statins, researchers used data from the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ meta-analysis that showed vascular mortality is reduced 12% for every 1.0-mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol. This was applied to the annual reduction in vascular mortality rates in UK individuals 50 years of age or older who were not currently taking a statin for primary disease prevention.

For the apple-a-day assessment, they used a widely published risk-assessment model (PRIME). This model includes a multitude of dietary variables, in which investigators can substitute different food choices to assess the effects on population health. The apple was assumed to weigh 100 g, and calorie intake was assumed to remain constant. This allowed investigators to assess the effect of substituting in one apple daily on vascular mortality in the UK population.

Briggs said he was surprised at how well the apples compared with statin therapy. However, he stressed the point is not to encourage patients to stop taking their medication. He points out that the UK has a “five-a-day” campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, but 69% of the population do not meet the recommendations.

For statin therapy, offering the treatment to an extra 17 million individuals and assuming 70% compliance would prevent 9400 vascular deaths each year. Assuming 70% compliance with the apple, even though “apples are of course both delicious and nutritious,” say the researchers,the estimated reduction in vascular deaths (with apples) would be 8500. They add that prescribing statins to all those eligible would lead to 1200 cases of myopathy, 200 cases of rhabdomyolysis, and 12 300 new diagnoses of diabetes mellitus.

Having now studied the science underlying an apple a day for keeping the doctor away, the group jokingly states they will next “model the effect of inquisitiveness on feline mortality rates.”

I’m Dr. Michael Hunter, and believe that an apple a day is a smart way to help lower your cholesterol level. I must admit, we have some of the best apples in the world here in Washington state (USA).

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

Available now: Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Both can be found at the Apple Ibooks store. Coming Soon for iPad:  Understand Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minute; Understand Colon Cancer in 60 Minutes; Understand Brain Glioma in 60 Minutes. Thank you.

Reference: An Apple (or Statin) a Day Will Keep the Doctor Away: Population Health Analysis. Medscape. Dec 18, 2013.