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Australian researchers suggest that eating lots of red meat could be linked to a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in old age.

Dr Elaine Chong, from the Centre for Eye Research Australia, and her colleagues found that compared to those who ate it less than five times a week, people who ate red meat 10 times a week were nearly 50 % more likely to develop AMD in old age. They also found that people who ate chicken at least three times a week were 50 % less likely to develop the condition.

AMD is where the middle part of the retina slowly breaks down, with the person gradually losing central vision, initially as blurring, then as fading colours. The complete blindness rarely occurs, but AMD still is the leading cause of poor-sightedness and blindness among the over 60s.

Chong and colleagues recruited 6,734 people aged from 58 to 69 for four years. The study participants filled in questionares regarding their eating habits with special accent on meat type, amount and frequency at the beginning of the study.

Over the follow up period, the researchers took digital macular photographs of the retina in both eyes of each participant and evaluated them for signs of AMD.

After adjusting for age, smoking, and other potential confounders, the researchers then performed statistical tests to find out the links between any signs of AMD and meat consumption.

The results showed that:

• At follow up, 1,680 participants had early stage AMD and 77 had late stage AMD.
• Higher red meat intake was positively associated with early AMD (ie more red meat linked to higher chance of having early AMD).
• The odds ratio for eating meat ten times a week or more versus eating it less than 5 times a week was a significant 1.47
• Conversely, eating chicken 3.5 times a week or more was linked to 57 % lower risk of late AMD compared to eating it less than 1.5 times a week.
It appears that different types of meat have different effects on the risk of developing AMD and helping people change their dietary habits could be a good way to help them lower risk of developing AMD in old age.

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I am wondering if vegetarians have the lowest risk for developing AMD.
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