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Fruit May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

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June 14, 2004 -- Eating at least three servings of fruit a day may help prevent the most common cause of blindness in older people.

A new study shows that people who ate three or more servings per day of fruits had a 36% lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARM) compared those who ate less than one-and-a-half servings per day. ARM is the leading cause of decreased vision in people over 65. It is a group of conditions that results in deterioration and loss of central vision.

There are no effective treatments for age-related macular degeneration, which makes prevention of the eye disease important.

Fruits Fight Macular Degeneration

Previous studies have suggested that taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc, may help protect against and slow the progression of macular degeneration.

In this study, researchers looked at the effect of specific antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids (the antioxidant compounds that pigment many fruits and vegetables) as well as overall fruit and vegetable consumption on the development of the disease in more than 118,000 men and women over 50 years old.

The participants were from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They completed food consumption questionnaires on a regular basis and were followed for up to 18 years. The results appear in The Archives of Ophthalmology.

During the follow-up period, researchers identified 464 new cases of early stages of age-related macular degeneration and 316 cases of more severe ARM.

The study showed that people who ate three or more servings per day of fruit had a 36% lower risk of ARM compared with those who ate less than half that amount.

Vegetable consumption did not appear to be strongly related to macular degeneration risks, although carrots appeared to have a somewhat protective effect against some forms of ARM.

The participants also reported their vitamin and supplement use, and the study showed that none of the antioxidant vitamins or carotenoids either from food only or from food and supplements significantly reduced macular degeneration risks.

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