High-Fat Processed Snack Foods May Accelerate Vision Loss

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The more fat you eat-particularly in the form of store-bought cakes, cookies, chips, and other processed snack foods--the greater your risk of progressing to the advanced stages of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans. That's what Harvard researchers found when they tracked the progression of macular degeneration for an average of 5 years in a group of 261 people who already had the early or intermediate stages of the disease.

Based on participants' food frequency questionnaires, the scientists found that people who had the highest consumption of total fat (about 70 grams, or 630 calories' worth per day), had nearly three times the risk of progressing to advanced macular degeneration compared to people with the lowest intake of total fat (about 24 grams, or 216 calories daily). And people who ate more than two daily servings of processed baked goods were more than twice as likely to have their disease progress as people who virtually never consumed those foods.

Processed baked goods like pies, cakes, and cookies contain high levels of saturated fat and trans fatty acids--both of which raise the risk for heart disease. Noting a possible heart disease-macular degeneration link, the researchers suggest that these and other dietary fats may contribute to the hardening of blood vessels supplying the retina, the site of macular degeneration, just as they contribute to the hardening of arteries that lead to the heart

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