Low Carbohydrate Diet and Macular Degeneration

Cook With Doc

Low carbohydrate diet is a popular weight loss plan but could it help slow down AMD (macular degeneration)? Certain carbohydrates, like white bread, are easily digested and cause a quick spike in blood sugar. This is called a high glycemic load in contrast with carbohydrates such as whole-grain bread, which take longer to digest and produce a low glycemic load. Population studies have shown high glycemic diets to be associated with AMD progression. 

An NIH-sponsored study about this was published in 2017 by Drs. Taylor and Sheldon from Tufts University. They studied the effect of dietary carbohydrates on retinal damage in mice. They hypothesized that retinal damage, similar to AMD, can be stopped or delayed by switching from a high glycemic diet to a low glycemic one. Retinal damage was observed in mice fed a high glycemic diet. Interestingly, mice lack a macula but damages seen in the study were similar to dry AMD. No significant retinal damage was seen in mice fed a low glycemic diet. Notably, when mice fed a high glycemic diet were switched to a low glycemic diet harmful build-up in the retina was stopped and somewhat reversed. This switch stopped signs of AMD. The authors commented, "the findings imply that we can optimize nutrition to prevent the progression of AMD."

Personally, I try to minimize high glycemic foods such as sugar and white bread from my diet. In our recipes, here at Cookwithdoc.com, effort has been made to minimize them as well. The encouraging news from these studies and others is that even after years of a less than ideal diet switching to healthier alternatives can have a beneficial effect. So, it seems it is never too late to start eating better!