Release Date: December 10, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Participants who ate a diet high in red and processed meat, fried food, refined grains and high-fat dairy were three times more likely to develop an eye condition that damages the retina and affects a person’s central vision, according to the results of a study from the University at Buffalo.
The condition is called late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is an irreversible condition that affects a person’s central vision, taking away their ability to drive, among other common daily activities.
“Treatment for late, neovascular AMD is invasive and expensive, and there is no treatment for geographic atrophy, the other form of late AMD that also causes vision loss. It is in our best interest to catch this condition early and prevent development of late AMD,” said Shruti Dighe, who conducted the research as part of her master’s in epidemiology at UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
And that’s why the finding that diet plays a role in AMD is so intriguing, added Dighe, who is now pursuing her PhD in cancer sciences at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
It turns out that a Western dietary pattern, one defined as high in consumption of red and processed meat, fried food, refined grains and high-fat dairy, may be a risk factor for developing late AMD. However, a Western diet was not associated with development of early AMD in the study, published this month in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
The authors studied the occurrence of early and late AMD over approximately 18 years of follow-up among participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Dighe and colleagues used data on 66 different foods that participants self-reported consuming between 1987 and 1995 and identified two diet patterns in this cohort — Western and what researchers commonly refer to as “prudent” (healthy) — that best explained the greatest variation between diets.
“What we observed in this study was that people who had no AMD or early AMD at the start of our study and reported frequently consuming unhealthy foods were more likely to develop vison-threatening, late stage disease approximately 18 years later,” said study senior author Amy Millen, PhD, associate professor and associate chair of epidemiology and environmental health at UB.
This U.S.-based study is one of the first examining diet patterns and development of AMD over time. The other studies were conducted in European cohorts.
Early AMD is asymptomatic, meaning that people often don’t know that they have it. To catch it, a physician would have to review a photo of the person’s retina, looking for pigmentary changes and development of drusen, or yellow deposits made up of lipids. With late AMD, there could be either atrophy or a buildup of new blood vessels in the part of the eye known as the macula.
“When people start developing these changes they will begin to notice visual symptoms. Their vision will start diminishing,” Dighe said. “This is advanced or late stage AMD.”
But not everyone who has early AMD progresses to the more debilitating late stage.
To date, most research has been conducted on specific nutrients — such as high-dose antioxidants — that seem to have a protective effect. But, Dighe explains, people consume a variety of foods and nutrients, not just one or two, and that’s why looking at diet patterns helps tell more of the story.
“Our work provides additional evidence that that diet matters,” Millen added. “From a public health standpoint, we can tell people that if you have early AMD, it is likely in your best interest to limit your intake of processed meat, fried food, refined grains and high-fat dairy to preserve your vision over time.”
Danise C. Wilson, MPH '14
has been elected chair of SUNY Erie Community College's Board of Trustees through 2022. She is executive director of the Erie Niagara Area Health Education Center. In a statement released by SUNY Erie, Wilson said she was honored to accept the board chairperson's role at the community college. "I am incredibly grateful to outgoing Chairman Lenihan for his stewardship on behalf of our students and I look forward to working with the entire Board and the College’s Administration as we continue to expand our services to provide a positive impact on current and future students," Wilson said.
Catherine Callahan, PhD '16
(epidemiology), recently published a co-first author article in the Journal of National Cancer Institute titled “Serum concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and risk of renal cell carcinoma.” Co-authored with Joseph J. Shearer, the article covers highly exposed individuals that have an association with PFOA and kidney cancer. Callahan is a molecular epidemiologist who focuses on environmental and occupational exposures. She is currently doing research based on etiologic studies of kidney cancer and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She worked at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a postdoctoral fellow for a little over two years after her graduation.
Summer Davis, MS '20
(occupational therapy), was selected by the Alpha Eta Society (the national honor society for allied health professionals) to receive the Exceptional Professional Service Award. She was recognized at Alpha Eta’s annual meeting in October 2020. The award is given to students who have an exceptional record of professional service and demonstrate this within and beyond their study program. Awarded students demonstrate this capability beyond their institution's confines while maintaining a leadership position in professional societies. Davis was president of UB’s Phi Theta Epsilon-Tau chapter of the National Occupational Therapy Honor Society. She held the position while managing different job experiences in her field, along with volunteer hours and licensing/certification classes.
Tyler Farnell, MS '20
(athletic training), is working as an injury prevention specialist through ProActive Works at four quarries owned by Tilcon. His duties include promoting wellness, performing ergonomic observations, and completing documentation with the goal of providing early intervention that can prevent minor injuries from getting worse, become work-related, or result in a loss of time from work. During Farnell’s time at UB, he furthered his experience by shadowing an athletic trainer for the UB Men's Hockey team, maintaining a number of licenses and certifications that fit his career path.
Marcelo Araujo, PhD '03
recently published a report in "The Journal of the American Dental Association" titled "Estimating COVID-19 prevalence and infection control practices among US dentists." The report finds the COVID-19 rate among dentists is less than one percent, although they were assumed to be at high risk. Ninety-nine percent of dentists are using enhanced infection control procedures. The research shows that dentists’ strategies of using heightened infection control and increased attention to patient and dental-team safety, works. Araujo was appointed chief executive officer for the American Dental Association Science and Research Institute in 2019. He leads a team helping advance dental research and impact dentists and patients' lives.
Dana Grady (Luther), MS '11
(occupational therapy), an occupational therapist at St. Peter's Hospital, recently implemented a new post-cardiac surgery program called "Keep Your Move in the Tube, developed by Baylor University. After completing research to compare the old strict sternal precautions to this new program to determine efficacy and safety, cardiac surgeons decided to move forward with this new, less restrictive post sternotomy program for all heart surgery patients. She also published an article, "The Impact of a Less Restrictive Poststernotomy Activity Protocol Compared With Standard Sternal Precautions in Patients Following Cardiac Surgery," which furthered the study of the program of the program.
Jane Moore, BS '93
(occupational therapy), created a comprehensive feeding program in collaboration with GI, nutritionists, behavior therapists and occupational therapists that specialize in feeding. Moore also created and implemented a training program for OTs who want to specialize in feeding, which assists them in obtaining their advanced license in California. The feeding program offers one-on-one intervention and feeding groups, working with infants and children with various feeding delays, including g-tube, trach, reflux, oral motor, and sensory issues. Moore has been a clinical director and feeding program supervisor for over five years, assessing, evaluating and providing OT therapy intervention for children with various diagnoses.