Age-related macular degeneration (maculopathy) is a leading cause of blindness in both Australia and the United States. There is some evidence that atherosclerosis and macular degeneration may both be related to a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. A large Australian study (Blue Mountain Eye Study) now confirms this connection.
The study involved 3654 men aged 49 years or older who completed a 145-item, semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire and also underwent a detailed eye examination including stereoscopic macular photography. Among the participants there were 240 cases (6.5%) of early-stage degeneration and 72 cases (2%) of late-stage disease.
The study results confirmed that the incidence of late-stage macular degeneration was almost 3 times higher among the men with a daily cholesterol intake of 400 mg or more than among the men with an intake of 231 mg/day or less. Somewhat surprisingly there was also a strong correlation between the intake of monounsaturated fat (olive oil) and the incidence of early-stage macular degeneration. The men with an intake of 34 grams/day or more had a 48% greater incidence than the men with an intake of 25 grams/day or less.
Regular fish consumption was found to be highly protective. The men who ate fish more than once a week had a 50% lower incidence of late-stage macular degeneration than did the men who ate fish less than once per month.
Smith, Wayne, et al. Dietary fat and fish intake and age-related maculopathy. Archives of Ophthalmology, Vol. 118, March 2000, pp. 401-04.