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    Mediterranean diet may protect against macular degeneration

    The Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a study of two Portuguese populations. 

    The results from the Coimbra Eye Study, presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2016 annual meeting, also showed for the first time a correlation between lower AMD risk and increased caffeine consumption. However, the study did not determine whether caffeine in itself was beneficial or whether the benefits came from antioxidants, or some other ingredients, in coffee.

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    The Mediterranean diet is the traditional preference of people living in many countries along the coasts of the Mediterranean and nearby. Compared to diets in most other western countries, it features a larger proportion of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts, fish, poultry, olive oil, and red wine, and lower proportions of red meat, butter, and refined carbohydrates.

    Lifestyle features other than these food groups are sometimes lumped into descriptions of the diet, such as exercising and eating in the company of family and friends.

    Previous research has shown benefits to the diet in reducing the risk of a wide variety of illnesses, including heart disease and certain cancers, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and in reducing overall mortality.

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    At the same time, researchers have shown that specific minerals and antioxidants can slow the progression of AMD, including vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper.     

    Researchers at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, and other nearby institutions decided to investigate whether the Mediterranean diet could reduce the risk of AMD.

    They gathered data on 4370 people over the age of 55 years from the coastal town of Mira and 8692 from the inland town of Lousã. In an initial study, they found—after controlling for other factors—that those people living in Lousã had a prevalence of 15.39% for early AMD and 1.29%, for late AMD, compared with 6.99% for early AMD and 0.67% for late AMD in Mira, differences that were statistically significant (p<0.001).

    Effects of diet

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