As they age, many people experience macular degeneration, in which their vision closes off from the middle as the macula lutea, a particular spot on the retina, falls apart. It's not clear what causes this, although it might be related to oxidationwhich has led many to wonder if antioxidants such as those found in many foods could help slow or prevent the disease. Some Harvard researchers looked at a well-studied set of health professionals to find out whether eating certain foods saved their eyes.
What the researchers wanted to know: Do fruits, vegetables, and vitamins help ward off age-related macular degeneration?
What they did: The 120,000-odd nurses in the Nurses' Health Study and the more than 50,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study have been studied more than the common lab rat. Or so it seems. Anyway, these are two huge, decades-long studies with tons of data on diet, lifestyle, and health. In this case, researchers were looking at data on diet and age-related maculopathywhich, in its later stages, is often called age-related macular degeneration.
What they found: The more fruit people ate, the less likely they were to have this particular eye problem. Bananas and oranges seemed to be particularly good. Vegetables didn't help, though.
What the study means to you: It is possible that eating more than three servings a day of fruit could help prevent macular degeneration. It would also help you get your vitamins. And taste good. Mmmm. Fruuuuit.
Caveats: While it's likely that fruit in general helps, the apparent advantage of bananas and oranges could be a coincidence, since the researchers looked at a lot of foods.
Find out more: Age-related macular degeneration from the National Eye Institute: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp
Read the article: Cho, E., et al. "Prospective Study of Intake of Fruits, Vegetables, Vitamins, and Carotenoids and Risk of Age-Related Maculopathy." Archives of Ophthalmology. June 2004, Vol. 122, pp. 883892.
Free abstract online: http://archopht.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/122/6/883