A diet rich in cholesterol and fat could increase the risk of vision loss, according to a new study conducted by a team from the University of Southampton.
Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, who is the lead author of the study, explains a poor and unhealthy diet can cause damage to the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells located in the eye. However, the team have also discovered a potential treatment that may protect the cells before it becomes damaged and causes age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to develop.
Genes and external factors - smoking, high blood pressure, and weight gain - are major causes for AMD, which is a blinding disease that is irreversible. It has an impact on your ability to read and recognize people's faces.
Why there is a link between an unhealthy diet and AMD is still unknown. Due to this, researchers of the study investigated how poor nutrition triggers disease-causing pathways, which could have an impact on RPE cells.
"Although the effects of poor nutrition in eye health has been studied in large populations, how this actually brings about disease-causing changes in retinal cells is less well understood," Dr Ratnayaka, lecturer in Vision Sciences at the University, told a news portal. "We also found that some lysosomes appeared to remain undamaged even in such stressed RPE, suggesting an altogether new way in which damaged cells could be rescued to prevent eventual sight-loss."
Ratnayaka further explained:"As our results showed how the waste disposal system of the RPE becomes damaged by unhealthy diet-driven disease pathways, our next step is to find out whether this type of damage can be reversed through better nutrition and if stressed or damaged RPE cells can possibly be rescued. Potential new therapies developed along these lines could offer new treatments for some AMD patients."
Meanwhile, Rutgers researchers found smoking can also increase the risk of vision loss. "Cigarette smoke consists of numerous compounds that are harmful to health, and it has been linked to reduction in the thickness of layers in the brain, and to brain lesions, involving areas such as the frontal lobe, which plays a role in voluntary movement and control of thinking, and a decrease in activity in the area of the brain that processes vision," co-author of the study Steven Silverstein told a news portal.
Adding, "Our results indicate that excessive use of cigarettes, or chronic exposure to their compounds, affects visual discrimination, supporting the existence of overall deficits in visual processing with tobacco addiction."