Carrots and apples are traditionally offered as produce that’s good for your eye health, but it turns out eating an orange may be the better way to prevent age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.
A 2018 study by Australian researchers that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied a group of older adults over a 15 year period. Specifically, they looked for the effects of flavonoid intake and AMD.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in Americans older than 65. The macula of the eye is the central part of the retina, and it can degrade as we get older. Even if AMD has already begun, consuming oranges may help slow it down.
They found that eating as little as one orange per day can reduce the risk of AMD by up to 60%.
Antioxidants To Phytochemicals
The study joins a growing body of research that relates nutrient intake to eye health. Vitamins C, E and A, as well as caretenoids – the bright yellow, red, and orange in carrots and tomatoes, for example – as playing a role in protecting eye health as we age.
The role of antioxidants has been studied. The researchers wanted to delve into the field of phytochemicals, specifically flavonoids. Flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, red wine, tea and chocolate. They are already known to benefit vascular health and to reverse oxidative stress.
• Study subjects who at at least one orange a day had a reduced risk of AMD after 15 years; • Those who consumed the most flavonones had the biggest reduction – up to 60%; • The highest intakes of hespiridin (particular to citrus fruits) in particular experienced the same kind of risk reduction.
An Orange A Day…
Lead researcher Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Sydney, is quoted in a news release.
“Essentially we found that people who eat at least one serving of oranges every day have a reduced risk of developing macular degeneration compared with people who never eat oranges,” says. “Even eating an orange once a week seems to offer significant benefits.”
Dr. Gopinath clarified the difference between the new study and older research into nutrition and eye health.
“Our research is different because we focused on the relationship between flavonoids and macular degeneration,” he said. “Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants found in almost all fruits and vegetables, and they have important anti-inflammatory benefits for the immune system.”
To gauge their results, the researchers compared it with test subjects and their consumption of other substances known to contain high levels of flavonoids. Interestingly, however, they found no similarly reduced risk with subjects who consumer high amounts of apples, tea, or red wine.
“We examined common foods that contain flavonoids such as tea, apples, red wine and oranges,” Dr. Gopinath noted. “Significantly, the data did not show a relationship between other food sources protecting the eyes against the disease,” she said.
The research paper used data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which was launched in 1992. One of the world’s largest epidemiology studies, it measured diet and lifestyle factors against health through a range of chronic diseases.