An orange a day keeps the ophthalmologist away is a new saying that could grow in popularity now that Australian researchers have discovered people who eat oranges are less likely to develop macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is an eye disease affecting more than 10 million mostly older Americans. While there are treatments for some of the symptoms, there is no known cure for this leading cause of blindness.
Scientists at Westmead Institute for Medical Research reviewed data from more than 2,000 Australians aged 50 and over who were asked about a range of subjects and then followed up with periodically over the next 15 years.
They learned that those who ate one serving of oranges a day reduced their risk of developing macular degeneration by more than 60 percent 15 years later compared to those that did not eat oranges.
"Essentially we found that people who eat at least one serve of orange every day have a reduced risk of developing macular degeneration compared with people who never eat oranges," said lead researcher Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney. "Even eating an orange once a week seems to offer significant benefits. The data shows that flavonoids found in oranges appear to help protect against the disease."
Macular degeneration affects to some extent 14 percent of Australians over the age of 50 and data shows age is the strongest known risk factor. Scientists are trying to understand why it occurs as well as the genetic and environmental conditions threatening sight.
"Our research is different because we focused on the relationship between flavonoids and macular degeneration,” Gopinath said. "Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants found in almost all fruits and vegetables, and they have important anti-inflammatory benefits for the immune system.
"We examined common foods that contain flavonoids such as tea, apples, red wine and oranges,” she added. Significantly, the data did not show a relationship between other food sources protecting the eyes against the disease."