Macular Degeneration


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It's been likened to putting a dab of vaseline in the centre of your glasses and trying to look through it.

"Everyone Ive told not to eat too many carrots has been amazed many of them were having a glass of carrot juice a day thinking they were slowing down their macular degeneration and they're horrified to learn that the studies suggest that probably not so, in fact the latest research has found they actually do the opposite," says Professor Paul Mitchell.

The people who are having lots of carrots and lots of betacarotene in their diet developed more macular degeneration over a 10 year incident study.

The study was done by Professor Paul Mitchell.... he's followed the diet of a group of people in the Blue Mountains.

It followed 3500 people over a 15 year period. Within this study the people who ate fish, their risk of developing macular degeneration over a 10 year period was reduced to half.

In fact macular degeneration is one of only a few diseases that you can actually eat away your genetic risk of getting it. Strong research now points to these particular super foods that will more than halve your chance of getting macular degeneration.

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Prof Paul Mitchell

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"We cant change our parents nor would we ever want to so we can't really change the actual genes in our body but we can potentially do is modify our bodies response to those genes," says Professor Mitchell.

The macular degeneration genes have now been identified and soon genetic tests will be available in Australia.

"It's not been very common in diseases like diabetes to identify a single gene whereas in Macular degeneration we now have two that really have a major effect," says Profesor Mitchell.

If you have the disease in the family, both professors say follow the diet, take the zinc and antioxidant supplement, eat salmon, leafy green vegetables like broccoli, leek, spinach bok choy, capscium, nuts and eggs and a new development, eat foods with low glycaemic index.

But what about the contentious issue of vegetable oil?

Six years ago Professor Beaumont believed there was enough research to warn people to keep it out of their diet, to eat butter instead of margarine...Today?.

"There's still a suspicion that vegetable oil is bad for you. It's looking very interesting but it needs more work. We have an urgent need for better research particularly in Australia," Says Professor Beaumont.

Suzanne Duncan has the early signs of macular degeneration. She's hoping she can eat her way out of getting the full blown disease or at least slow it down.

"I would never have thought that some of these foods could contribute to slowing down a disease, particularly carrots. For years we've been told theyre great for your eyesight," says Suzanne.

She's had to change her diet. An easy alternative compared to the threat of blindness.

If Suzanne's disease does progress she is lucky it is treatable but the magic bullet is a scarey prospect, an injection straight into the eye.

"We can inject an antibody which will grab this molecule and turn it off, stop the vessel growing, stop the leak and stop the haemorrhaging, stop the blindness," says Professor Beaumont.

If they get an eye early enough they claim they can restore the vision.

Frank Mason got macular degeneration in one eye 13 years ago and was told he would be blind in five years

It was too late to restore the sight in that eye but when the other eye went blurry he visited Professor Beaumont immediately....18 Lucentis injections later his eye is clear.

Frank has to have an injection a month.

Jacqueline Falls is still able to paint after her sight was restored in her right eye, again only because she detected the detorioration early.

"My main message I want to get through to people is when you go and have your eyes checked always get your macular checked," says Professor Beaumont.

But Professor Mitchell has this warning to government, strike early and stop this disease in its tracks before there's even any need for the injections.

"We're talking about a disease that costs Australia 5 billion a year so in fact further research funding could be found to really explore this whole idea of gene environment interaction with nutrition and other risk factors for this disease, it would pay off for us to reduce the overall burden from this disease," says Professor Mitchell.

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