Can a low-glycaemic diet slow down AMD?

Diet and nutrition are significant factors to consider when diagnosed with any health condition. While we are all aware that a healthy, balanced diet can help support our health in the longer term, the particular foods to avoid or cut down on when we have a specific health condition are often less known.

When living with a condition like age-related macular degeneration, monitoring your intake of certain foods and supplements can prove beneficial when it comes to slowing down the progression of the eye disease. Multiple studies have pointed towards various foods and diets which could offer protection against AMD, offering patients a degree of control when it comes to preventing the condition.

The latest of these has been conducted by Tufts University and reveals that the development of AMD could be slowed down by avoiding or cutting down on certain starchy carbohydrates foods. The research suggests that by switching to a low-glycaemic diet, you could reduce the intake of these carbohydrates and potentially protect your vision in the long run.

What is a low-glycaemic diet?

Foods which are high on the glycaemic index are those which are quickly broken down in your body, causing a rapid increase in blood glucose levels. These include things like potatoes, white rice, white bread, sugary drinks and processed foods such as cake, cereal, cereal bars and crackers.

Low-glycaemic foods are those that are broken down more slowly by the body, causing a gradual increase in blood sugar over time rather than a sudden spike. They include certain fruits and vegetables, pulses such as kidney beans, baked beans and chickpeas, low-fat dairy products and wholegrain foods.

A low-glycaemic diet doesn’t mean cutting out high-glycaemic foods altogether, but making a few changes such as switching from white to wholegrain bread could help reduce your overall intake. This, in turn, could prevent the development of AMD.

How could low-glycaemic foods slow down the progression of AMD?

The researchers at Tuft University’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center, found that mice following a low-glycaemic diet developed fewer and less severe age-related lesions in the retina than those who were fed foods which were higher on the glycaemic index.

Specifically, the research team found that a high-glycaemic diet resulted in the development of several AMD symptoms. These included the loss of cell functionality at the rear of the eye, known as retinal pigmented epithelial atrophy, and the cells which capture light, known as photoreceptors.

Both of these are precursors to dry AMD, and damage of this kind to the human eye in those over 60 can be the earliest signal of age-related macular degeneration.

However, the mice fed on a low-glycaemic diet did not develop the same AMD features, showing that switching from a high-glycaemic diet could arrest retinal damage.

New potential biomarkers

The researchers also believe that the study points towards potential biomarkers of AMD which could be used to predict when a person is at risk of the disease. These include:

  • Advanced glycation end products, which are formed when sugar metabolites react with proteins
  • Oxidised fats, C3-carnitine and serotonin levels.

In conclusion

Following a low-glycaemic diet could help to slow down the development and progression of AMD by arresting damage caused by high-glycaemic carbohydrates to the retina. Research is ongoing when it comes to the link between diet and eye health, but recommending alternative nutrition plans to patients based on available research data could be beneficial in helping to protect vision in the long term.

Research published by the Lancet predicts that by 2020 there will be 196 million people with AMD, with a further 92 million sufferers by 2040. The fact that more research is being done to discover how diet can affect eye health is therefore very promising when it comes to preventing vision loss caused by AMD.

Want to learn more about AMD? Read about the disease’s risk factors and take a look at our free whitepaper.