Macular degeneration: Could eating grapes benefit eye health?

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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New research shows that a daily serving of grapes could benefit age-related vision by improving a biomarker of macular degeneration. Stocksy/Getty Images Tim M Lanthier/Getty Images
  • A recent study found that a daily cup and a half of grapes may improve age-related vision problems.
  • The findings suggest that daily grape consumption could improve a biomarker of macular degeneration in older adults.
  • Grapes contain antioxidants that may reduce oxidative stress, which contributes to poor eye health.

Carrots aren’t the only food that’s good for eye health. A recent study found that a daily serving of grapes improved age-related vision problems in older adults.

The study is the first randomized, controlled human study of the potential benefits of grapes for human eyesight in the aging population.

According to the study’s authors, grape consumption reduces oxidative stress and benefits certain age-related biomarkers linked to macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration occurs in the eye’s macula, the central part of the retina, and generally occurs in people over 50. The condition makes it difficult for people to see things directly in front of them — although they can see things not centrally located.

The study results were recently published in the journal Food & Function. It was funded by the California Table Grape Commission, which played no role in its implementation, analysis, or interpretation of data.

The current study indicates that grape consumption helped reduce the accumulation of “AGEs.”

Dr. Giyaur explained that AGEs “are a group of harmful compounds that form when sugars react with proteins or fats in the body through a process called ‘glycation,’”

Glycation may occur in the body from high sugar consumption or by eating foods cooked at high temperatures.

“[AGEs] are associated with various health issues, including inflammation, oxidative stress, and damage to tissues and cells causing aging and age-related conditions including macular degeneration, and play a role in diseases like diabetes,” Dr. Giyaur said.

Dr. Giyaur pointed out that of the study’s reported differences in AGEs over a 16-week trial, “the accumulation of AGEs in the body typically occurs gradually over many years.”

Therefore, detecting changes in AGEs levels after a brief study “might be challenging, as it may require specialized laboratory techniques and may not yield dramatic or easily observable results within that relatively short timeframe,” she noted.

Could eating more grapes improve vision in people with macular degeneration? The answer is unclear.

Dr. Kim said this is a possibility but by no means guaranteed. She noted that the study shows an association between grapes and less macular degeneration but does not establish a cause for that association.

While the study measured MPOD as a biomarker of optical Health, “other visual parameters were not accounted for, and this is a limitation of this work,” Dr. Kim said.

The researchers say they have received funding for a follow-up study next year in which they plan to measure more related parameters such as visual acuity, contrast/glare sensitivity, and photostress recovery time.

“We expect these visual parameters will be improved after grape consumption based on the current findings,” said Dr. Kim.

Dr. Giyaur expressed concerns regarding the small number of study participants, the short follow-up period, and the use of grape powder, which could have an even larger effect on blood glucose than whole grapes.

She said that prevention for age-related macular degeneration is “a complex issue influenced by multiple factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and overall diet.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Giyuar said the study raised valid points regarding the need for further research investigating the effect of diet on age-related diseases such as macular degeneration.

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