Macular Disease Foundation Australia logo

    New Nutrition Guidelines for AMD

    Latest research supports Mediterranean and Asian-style eating plans to reduce risk of AMD

    New findings reveal that consuming more than 12g of alcohol per day (less than one large glass of wine or large beer) is linked to a higher risk of developing irreversible vision loss; new nutrition guidelines released to help protect Australians’ eyesight suggest.  

    More than one 1.5 million Australians are affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the country’s leading cause of vision loss. Although two-thirds of Australian optometrists regularly discuss the impact of diet on eye diseases, and 91% routinely recommend nutritional supplements to patients with AMD2, there are currently no official guidelines for nutritional advice. 

    With one in seven Australians over the age of 50 show some evidence of AMD, Macular Disease Foundation Australia has partnered with The University of Sydney to address the common chronic condition in the first systematic review of all the published systematic reviews – the highest level of evidence to inform clinical and public health decisions. 

    Investigating alcohol consumption, dietary patterns, food, and nutrition supplements to prevent AMD and/or slow its progression, evidence from the review has informed its new Nutrition Guidelines released today as part of Macula Month (May). 

    “My father had age-related macular degeneration and lost his central vision. Given I have a familial risk of developing the disease, I have been incredibly conscious of my food choices for a long time, so much so that in 2009 I co-authored with Vanessa Jones Eating for Eye Health: The Macular Degeneration Cookbook3 to highlight how foods can promote good eye health and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

    The new Nutrition Guidelines from Macular Disease Foundation Australia reinforce with evidence the importance of making the best diet choices to help maintain eye health. It’s an invaluable resource for people and communities.

    MDFA’s Patron, Ita Buttrose AC OBE

    Macular Disease Foundation’s review found that consuming more than 12g of alcohol per day – which is a little over one standard drink – has a detrimental effect on AMD and is likely to increase people’s risk of developing early AMD. High meat consumption, especially red and processed meat, also puts people at risk. 

    Excessive alcohol intake can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which are believed to be underlying factors in the development and progression of AMD. 

    “We know that cutting back on alcohol has many benefits, including reducing the risk of developing liver disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, as well as positive effects like boosting mood, keeping a healthy weight and saving money,” says Dr Kathy Chapman, CEO of Macular Disease Foundation Australia and a former nutritionist. “But what our review is telling us – and what many people don’t realise – are the significant benefits drinking less alcohol has on maintaining healthy eyes and lowering the risk of developing or progressing AMD.” 

    The review also found that while there has long been extensive evidence for certain foods being protective against AMD, these may not be as important as people’s eating patterns. 

    “In reality, nutrition concerns the long-term, overall diet,” says Dr Chapman. “The concept of ‘food synergy’, the joint impact that everything you eat and drink has on overall health, is an important message for people to remember. The guidelines also re-confirm the importance consuming fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, and recommend people aim to eat fish at least twice per week.” 

    A new finding for Macular Disease Foundation was that sticking closely to the Mediterranean diet was likely associated with lower risk of early AMD and delaying progression to late AMD. Similarly, an Asian-style eating pattern (defined as a high intake of vegetables, fish and plant-based proteins in the diet pattern traditional in Japan and south-east Asia) likely reduces the risk of developing late AMD. 

    Research has shown that inflammation plays a role in the development of AMD as ocular tissues are vulnerable to oxidative stress.

    Dr Kathy Chapman

    “Adhering to a Mediterranean diet has been linked to lower levels of oxidative stress biomarkers in the blood. This may be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties found in vegetables, fruit, and fish. Whereas research consistently suggests a Western diet is linked with higher inflammation in the body, which may explain why a Western diet was possibly associated with increased risk of developing AMD.”

    “I encourage people to download our new Nutrition Guidelines and sign-up to receive our latest Macula Menu which has new recipes reflecting the new guidelines.” 



    2 Downie, L.E., Keller, P.R., The self-reported clinical practice behaviours of Australian optometrists as related to smoking, diet and nutritional supplementation. PLOS ONE. 2015;10(4):e0124533. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0124533. 

    3 Eating for Eye Health : The Macular Degeneration Cookbook (2009) Ita Buttrose and Vanessa Jones 

    Posted: 1 May 2024

    More articles like this