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Eye specialists' advise on fats link with disease

Eye specialists' advise on fats link with degenerative eye disease

MELBOURNE, Nov. 16 /MediaNet International-AsiaNet/ --

Medical eye specialists said today that a varied diet without excessive animal or vegetable fat intake could help reduce the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), as well as heart disease.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists said that, with regard to AMD, there was evidence suggesting that eating vegetables, especially dark green, leafy vegetables, as well as fish, may be beneficial.

AMD is a progressive degenerative eye disease generally related to age. It is a major public health issue, affecting up to one in four people in the ageing population.

The College, which is holding its annual scientific congress in Melbourne, was responding to recent claims that there were links between AMD and severe visual loss from the consumption of dietary fat, particularly vegetable fats or margarine.

The College said that, at this stage, the limited information available on the relationship between AMD and vegetable fats was not sufficient for people to drastically alter their diet. There are widely agreed recommendations to limit saturated fats for cardiovascular health.

The College said definitive recommendations about the types of fats which should be eaten preferentially in relation to AMD should not be made until further research comes to light.

See Attached Statement: Dietary Fats and AMD

For further information contact: John Deeth RANZCO Phone 0417 667 926

DIETARY FATS AND AMD 16 November 2004

There has been widespread publicity regarding claimed links between Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and severe visual loss from the consumption of dietary fat, particularly vegetable fats or margarine.

This publicity has led many people, both the elderly with AMD and the very young wishing to avoid AMD, to abandon the use of margarine (vegetable fat) in favour of butter (saturated animal fats).

Australian authorities encourage a cautious interpretation of the claims. The research reported an increased risk of AMD in people from the United States eating vegetable oils. The results are not consistent with other studies, which found no association between fat consumption and AMD or have found the association predominantly with animal fat. However, only a few recent studies have examined the vegetable-fats relationship. It should be noted that the senior author of two of the four studies does not believe that the findings are sufficient grounds for public health policy change.

Also, there may be sources of bias in the American studies that affect the validity of the findings and the conclusions that were drawn, it is not certain that those findings apply to the Australian population where diet is considerably different, particularly with respect to the nature of the fats that make up our margarines.

Whilst the proposition that a high fat diet may lead to an increased risk of developing advanced AMD has been reported in several studies, the evidence to support the notion that one particular type of fat is better or worse than another is still inconclusive.

What is, however, established beyond doubt by our cardiovascular colleagues is that saturated fats (animal fats) are a strong, independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Also, many studies have linked the risk of AMD to cardiovascular diseases as well as to smoking.

Thus, at this stage, it would seem unwise to abandon the thoroughly researched and widely agreed upon recommendation to reduce saturated fat intake on the basis of the limited information on AMD and vegetable fats.

The commonsense advice to the general public at this stage is to eat a varied diet without excessive fat intake (both animal and vegetable) in order to reduce the risk of heart disease and, possibly, AMD. With regard to AMD, there is also evidence to suggest that eating vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables, as well as fish, may be beneficial. Definitive recommendations about the types of fats which should be eaten preferentially should not be made until further research is reported.


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