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Fruit each day keeps the eye doctor away

June 21, 2004|Jane E. Allen

Eating fruit appears to protect your eyes from a leading cause of blindness in later years.

The common wisdom has been that antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids -- natural pigments that give color to egg yolks, tomatoes, fruits and vegetables -- can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a largely incurable disease that affects central vision. That may be so. But researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have found that eating three or more servings of fruit a day decreased by 36% the risk of developing wet macular degeneration, the rarer form of the disease. In their preliminary study, consumption of vegetables, vitamins and carotenoids didn't seem to make a difference with this form.

Lead researcher Eunyoung Cho said scientists will next try to identify the beneficial components in fruit; they suspect that compounds called flavonoids may have a role.

The findings were based on an analysis of fruit and vegetable consumption among more than 118,000 participants in two large studies of nurses and health professionals followed up to 18 years. All were at least age 50.

The findings appear in the June issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

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-- Jane E. Allen

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