Researchers see red over bad diet

Local | Amy Nip 30 Dec 2019

Amy Nip

University researchers have found that Hongkongers face increasing risks of vision impairment in later life due to eating too little fatty fish or dark green vegetables and too much red meat.

In a first for Asia, a University of Hong Kong team found local dietary patterns increased the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a gradual blurring of central vision.

The university said yesterday that it was the first study to show that by choosing the correct omega-fatty acids in one's diet, the risk and progression of the elderly developing the disease can be substantially reduced.

"Regular intake of high omega-3 fatty acids food such as salmon and flaxseed with rich carotenoid foods like spinach, kale, and tomatoes is recommended for the prevention of age-related macular degeneration," the findings reported.

There are two forms of macular degeneration, the first being a "wet" form of the eye disease, which involves abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina and macula, which may bleed and leak fluid, causing the macula to bulge and thus distorting central vision. The "wet" form is more common among Hongkongers due to being hereditary. The second, a "dry" form, does not involve any leakage of blood or serum.

The HKU study covered 99 patients with the wet form of the disease, and 198 age-and-gender-matched healthy control cases, with plasma samples taken and analyzed.

A food frequency questionnaire was also collected to evaluate their dietary pattern and then compared with the plasma analysis.

"The group found the average consumption rate of deep-sea fish was less than twice per week, which is inadequate to obtain the multiple health effects of omega-3 fatty acids," the HKU team announced.

Poor diet was also associated with the generation of fatty acid oxygenated products, increasing the chances of inflammation and raising risk factors.

The team comprised of assistant professor Jetty Lee Chung-Yung Lee and graduate researcher Andy Leung Ho-Hang Leung from the School of Biological Science, as well as honorary associate professor Ian Wong Yat-hin and honorary assistant professor Alex Ng Lap-ki from the department of ophthalmology.

The research was published in the Free Radical Biology and Medicine scientific journal.

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