A study supported by the Macular Degeneration Research program of the BrightFocus Foundation examined alcohol intake in records of nearly 21,000 Australians. The study concluded that men and women who drank more than 20 grams of alcohol per day had an approximately 20% increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. The US Centers for Disease Control equates this to approximately one 12 oz. beer or a 5 oz. glass of wine.
The analysis was conducted on data collected from nearly 21,000 patients during a 17-year study designed to assess the role of genetics, diet, and lifestyle factors in common chronic diseases. Previously, data from this study have provided evidence that mid-life obesity and diet may also affect AMD risk.
Although some prior studies have shown a protective effect associated with wine consumption, this study did not observe differences in effects between wine and beer. There were no discernible differences between people who spread their alcohol consumption over a week, or those who averaged 20 g per day, but might have consumed it on fewer days. Researchers did not see the same correlation in the approximately 700 “former drinkers” in the trial or in the study participants who consumed less than 20 g per day.
While alcohol may contribute modestly to age-related macular degeneration, smoking is the most established behavioral risk factor. Various studies have reported that smokers may have two to four times the risk that non-smokers have for macular degeneration.