Dairy foods may prevent a common eye disease that causes blindness, new Australian research to be published in the May edition of the British Journal of Nutrition shows.
The Blue Mountains Eye Study by the University of Sydney’s and Westmead Millennium Institute’s Centre for Vision Research monitored the eye health and nutrition of more than 3,500 Australians over 15 years.
The study assessed the relationship between consumption of regular and reduced fat milk, cheese and yogurt and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
“We found that over a fifteen year period people who consumed less than one serve of dairy a day had a higher risk of developing late age-related macular degeneration compared to people who consumed more than 2 ¾ serves of dairy a day,” research lead, Dr Bamini Gopinath, says.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive, chronic disease of the central retina and is the leading cause of vision loss in older people worldwide including Australia .
AMD can be ‘early’ and ‘dry’, when it thins and dries the macula or ‘late’ and ‘wet’, when it leaks fluid and blood into the eye . Late AMD can lead to sudden and significant changes in vision .
It is unclear which of the ten essential nutrients found in dairy is responsible for the protection against late AMD.
“Dairy foods contain a host of essential nutrients including calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D and proteins. Plus, they have a range of healthy fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory properties as well. It could be any one of these components or a combination of many that helps protect against late AMD,” Dr Gopinath says.
While dairy foods have long been known for building bone density, various studies over the last decade have revealed its benefits to overall health.
“The Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recognises that milk, cheese and yogurt can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some cancers, and may reduce our risk of Type 2 diabetes,” says Dairy Australia dietitian, Amber Beaumont.
The NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend two and a half serves a day from the dairy food group for most adults. This increases to four serves for women over 50 and to three-and-a-half for men over 70 years of age.
“Around 8 in 10 Australian adults are missing out on these health benefits as they’re not meeting the recommended intake for the dairy food group.”
One serve of dairy is: 1 glass (250mL) of milk or 3/4 cup (200g) of yogurt or 2 slices (40g) of cheese.
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision impairment in people aged over 40 years in Australia. It results in a blurring, diming or darkening of the central field of vision (the macula) because of damage to the retina. Risk factors include: family history, age and smoking.
The Blue Mountains Eye Study
The Blue Mountains Eye Study (BMES) established baseline data of eye health and dietary records of 3,564 people 49 years and older between 1992-94. Participants were then re-examined in 1997-99, 2002-4 and/or 2007-9. The results are adjusted for age, sex, smoking status, white cell count and fish consumption. The study will be published in the British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 111, Issue 09, May 2014. The Blue Mountains Eye Study is funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.
The British Journal of Nutrition
British Journal of Nutrition is a leading international peer-reviewed journal covering research on human and clinical nutrition, animal nutrition and basic science as applied to nutrition. The Journal recognises the multidisciplinary nature of nutritional science and includes material from all of the specialties involved in nutrition research, including molecular and cell biology and the emerging area of nutritional genomics.
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