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Dr Paul Beaumont Fellowship 2012 - Research findings

Title: Dietary patterns and risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Primary investigator: Dr Liubov (Luba) Robman

Location: Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), Melbourne

Biography

Dr Robman, MBBS PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow in the Macular Research Unit, Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne. Dr Robman received her degree in Medicine and her first PhD (Ophthalmic Surgery) in the Soviet Union, and second PhD (Ophthalmic Epidemiology) at The University of Melbourne, Australia. Dr Robman has worked for over 15 years in AMD research, specifically investigating the risk factors for AMD and its progression. She has played key roles in a number of randomised controlled trials on AMD. She has trained CERA staff to conduct eye imaging and has led and supervised AMD grading teams in a number of studies.

The Research

Previous research has found strong associations between particular foods and risk of AMD, yet it can be difficult for people to follow very strict dietary guidelines. This study aimed to identify the associations between broader dietary patterns and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) by mining data from the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study, the largest single cohort study in the world. It also analysed lifestyle habits and genetic predisposition in relation to AMD risk. The ethnic diversity (Greek, Italian and Anglo-Saxon), wide ranges of diet and the very large sample size provided a unique opportunity to investigate these associations. By conducting this large-scale dietary pattern, lifestyle and genetic analyses, the project aimed to provide more specific advice on how to modify individual risk of AMD progression.

The Findings

The one year project has now been completed. Data from over 21,000 participants in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study were analysed to determine the eating patterns that reduce the risk of disease progression. It was found that people who have a diet consisting primarily of a combination of grains, fish, steamed or boiled chicken, vegetables and nuts had a significantly reduced risk of both early and late age-related macular degeneration. These findings are very consistent with the dietary recommendations of the Foundation.

The study also indicated that excessive consumption of red meat had a significantly increased risk of late age-related macular degeneration, so a balanced diet which includes fish and green leafy vegetables is important.

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