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Low glycemic diet protects your eyes

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in older Americans . The Archives of Ophthalmology estimated that 1.75 million U.S. residents now have significant symptoms associated with age-related macular degeneration and that number is expected to grow to almost 3 million. Smoking, poor diet and obesity all increase the risk. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, light eye color, farsightedness, family history of the disease and aging. The condition tends to affect whites and females in particular. It produces a slow, or rarely, sudden, painless loss of vision. Symptoms include seeing shadowy areas in your central vision or experiencing unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. Note: Viewing an Amsler grid is one way to tell if you are having these vision problems. You can view an Amsler grid at

In 2001, the National Eye Institute conducted the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) involving more than 3600 people. The researchers found that supplementation with certain nutrients reduced the risk of progressing to advanced macular degeneration by 28%. Research has now shown that antioxidants- especially vitamin C, E, and zinc, plus the carotenoids lutein and xeazanthin (found in spinach, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts) and omega-3 fatty acids are all highly protective of the eyes and vision. What you eat affects the macular, and many experts feel strongly that diet and supplements can be used to treat or prevent the condition.

While antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids have long been cornerstones of the Atkins Advantage principles for healthy eating, a new study now confirms that following another Atkins Advantage principle can help save your vision. Researchers analyzed recent long-term results from the very same AREDS study and found that consumption of highly refined carbohydrates can lead to up to a 17% increased risk of macular degeneration.

At the beginning of the study patients were given a food-frequency questionnaire, and researchers were able to extrapolate from that each subject's overall dietary glycemic index. When the researchers compared people who ate a low glycemic diet to those eating a high-glycemic diet, they found that those with a high glycemic diet were between 5% and 17% more likely to have their macular degeneration progress.

According to Dr. Chung-Jung Chiu, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Tufts University, these findings are important because they show that following a low-glycemic load diet can reduce the risk of macular degeneration progression. The researchers estimate that reducing the dietary glycemic index for the upper 50% of the older population might eliminate more than 100,000 new cases of advanced macular degeneration in 5 years in the United States. Yet one more reason to follow the sound principles of the Atkins Advantage program- low glycemic foods with antioxidants and good fats. Your eyes will thank you for doing so!

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