In this study, researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. discovered how poor nutrition, including high fat and cholesterol-enriched food, can damage the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the eye. They also found a potential new treatment through which these cells could be saved before diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) develop.
AMD is an eye disease that can lead to loss of vision. It is irreversible and is caused by factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or excess weight. It affects the central vision, which is used for reading and recognizing faces. This condition is one of the leading causes of blindness globally.
When AMD develops, RPE cells become damaged. As a result, they become less equipped to support the photoreceptors of the eyes, which are the cells in the retina responding to light. When photoreceptors die, permanent loss of vision occurs.
For the study, the researchers looked at how disease-causing pathways triggered by poor nutrition could affect RPE cells. They determined how healthy RPE cells break down by-products generated by daily activities of photoreceptors through the waste disposal system of the cells.
The researchers found that healthy RPE cells can cope with the changing condition in the aging eye. However, an unhealthy diet, particularly a high-fat diet, can interrupt the breakdown process in RPE cells, in turn causing long-term damage and, eventually, blindness. In addition, the researchers identified that some lysosomes appeared to remain unharmed even in such stressed RPE. This suggested that damaged cells could be saved to prevent eventual vision loss. (Related: Tips for boosting eye health and avoiding macular degeneration.)
"Our next step is to find out whether this type of damage can be reversed through better nutrition and if stressed or damaged RPE cells can possibly be rescued. Potential new therapies developed along these lines could offer new treatments for some AMD patients," said Dr. Arjuna Ratnayaka, the leader of the study.
If you’re currently following an unhealthy diet, now is the time to start switching to a healthier one. To help you out, here are 10 best foods for your eyes to add to your diet:
For more news and stories on how diets affect your health, visit Superfoods.news.