Thursday, July 06, 2006

For Eyes

This little article summarizing a Harvard/Tufts study on preventing Age-related Macular Degeneration (vision issues) appeared in Delicious Living:

Low-glycemic diet reduces risk of age-related blindness, July, 2006
By Kristi Lew

How can you prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that will affect the vision of more than 10 million Americans this year? According to new research, you may want to lower the glycemic index (GI) of the foods you eat.

A study conducted by scientists from Tufts and Harvard universities showed that a low-GI diet could cut your risk of developing age-related maculopathy (ARM), an early form of AMD, by as much as 50 percent (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006, vol. 83, no. 4). Researchers followed 526 women for a decade. Those whose diets rated in the highest third for GI more than doubled their odds of developing ARM, compared with women whose diets rated in the lowest third. Low-GI diets tend to include a lot of whole grains, milk, legumes, fruits, and vegetables (except potatoes).

Other studies have linked diet and AMD, too. Diets high in antioxidants and fish have been shown to lower the risk of developing AMD. Obesity and high-fat diets, on the other hand, increase the risk. "The bottom line is that a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables that is low in fat but high in omega-3 fatty acids—along with healthy living habits such as not smoking, controlling your weight, and exercising—is your best bet [in preventing this disease]," says Bernard Godley, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Texas in Galveston.

What is the glycemic index? It is a ranking of carbohydrates "according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss." Low glycemic index foods are those with glycemic index ratings of under 55 and should be chosen most often as sources of carbohydate in the diet. Moderate glycemic index levels include foods in the 56-69 range, and high include foods with ranges above 70. Source.

High glycemic diets, which include excessive sugar and white flour intake, can harm the body in many ways. Not only can a poor diet affect eyesight with age, but it can be a catalyst for Type II diabetes and other health risks such as weight problems, and increased risk of heart disease and high cholesterol levels.

As difficult as it is for those of us with a massive sweet tooth to do, we would do well to remember our grandmother's admonitions to eat our fruits and veggies and to cut back on sugar. Also, with the increase in edible whole grain products on the market, the transition away from refined grains has become easier. Our overall health benefits as we provide our bodies with higher quality fuel (nutrition). And if you don't take care of you, who will?

Just some food for thought.

Note: Here is where you can go to find out the glycemic index of various foods. Click on GI Database and type in the range or food that interests you.


At 7/06/2006 4:03 PM, Anonymous JannyMae said...

Sorry, I'm always very skeptical of these, "studies." The, "experts," have let too many things become recognized as, "fact," later to have to retract them.

Overall nutritional health is very much in debate, because the way we digest food and utilize nutrients is poorly understood.

I'm all for eating a balanced diet, with a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, but I'm not jumping on this, "sugar bad," bandwagon. I was taught a concept by my nutrition instructor in college. The OVERALL diet is what is healthy or unhealthy. There are no, "unhealthy," foods, it's your diet, as a whole, that can be unhealthy.

As an example. My nephew was criticizing his grandmother one time for eating something he deemed, "unhealthy." My response to him was as follows:

"Is broccolli a healthy food?"

"Yes," he replied.

"If you ate nothing but broccolli everyday, would that be a healthy diet?"

"Well, no."

"Why not?"

"Well, because I wouldn't be getting other things I need in other foods."


So, eating a lot of sugar is unhealthy because you need other nutrients in your diet besides sugar. There can be, however, room for sugary foods in a healthy diet.

At 7/06/2006 6:58 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

I didn't take this as absolute, as in absolutely no sugar ever. You'll notice there were no absolutes in my comments (because if there were I'd be a hypocrite!) However, the American diet has become far too heavy on sugars and junk foods so that people aren't as healthy as they should be and are becoming diabetic and suffering from other ailments. The problem is the huge inbalance in many people's diets which are causing long term consequences.

At 7/06/2006 11:31 PM, Anonymous JannyMae said...

No, you did not speak in absolutes, but you speak in generalities that do not hold water.

There have been many studies done attempting to tie diet to diabetes and heart disease. They have failed to do so. There is absolutely no substantive proof, whatsoever, that there is any correlation between diet and the onset of diabetes, or diet and heart disease, despite the best efforts of researchers to establish such ties.

Remember when we were told that eating meat caused colon cancer?
Remember when we were told that salt aggravated, or even CAUSED, high blood pressure? Ooops! Many people probably are still buying those myths, too.

To summarize my points:

1. There is no consensus among experts on what constitutes a, "healthy," diet.

2. I'm tired of hearing that we, in general, are consuming too much sugar, when there is no consensus about what constitutes, "too much."

3. A healthy diet (most probably) consists of a variety of foods, in moderation.

I'm not buying that there is much validity to this, "study."

At 7/07/2006 1:05 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

You do have a point about studies being heralded as new instructions for healthy living only to be disproved later. I think this frequently comes from taking studies out of context and extrapolating from small indicators, and also from a lack of reproducibility of study findings. Genetics, too, will play a role in all health problems.

I guess I don't put this one in the same category because I have personal "issues" with sugar and other foods of high glycemic index. (I'd prefer to leave it at that rather than go into specifics.) Therefore, the encouragement to moderate such foods makes perfect sense to me, as I am aware of the far reaching consequences for me.

But, feel free to take the study with a grain of salt, unless that would cause you hypertension or something. :)


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