Blindness study dismissed

20 March, 2009

A nutritionist has cast doubt over the findings of a study that linked the consumption of fresh and processed red meat to increased risk of blindness.

The study, carried out by Melbourne University and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, claimed that people with more meat in their diets are more susceptible to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness.

For the study, the meat intake of 6,734 people aged 58-69 was monitored from the early 1990s to 2006 and matched to eye tests which detect the early signs of AMD. According to the report, the people who ate red meat more than 10 times a week were 50% more likely to develop AMD then those who ate it less than five times a week.

Chicken consumption was found to have the opposite affect, with the study claiming that people who eat chicken more than three-and-a-half times a week are less likely to develop the disease than those eating chicken less than one-and-a-half times a week.

Maureen Stong, Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) nutrition manager, urged caution over the report, insisting, "It has to be taken with a pinch of salt, because they don't prove cause and effect."

Strong questioned how many people would eat red meat 10 times a week. "That's a lot, average consumption is not 10 times a week," she said.

She added that the results were most likely down to chance, but the AHDB would continue to keep tabs on the study in the future.

Researchers suggested that the findings of the report could be used as a target for lifestyle moderation, but Winfried Amoaku, chairman of the Royal College of Ophthalmology said: "The paper shows that there is a possible association of early AMD with increased red meat consumption when compared to white meat.

"No comment could be made in regards to advanced AMD, as there were not enough such patients in the study. The evidence is still not strong enough to merit any advice to the public."





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