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Bulging Bellies Linked To Age-Related Macular Degeneration

May 17, 2011

BrightFocus’ Macular Degeneration Research program funded Dr. Robman for this important project.

The Center for Eye Research Australia (CERA) researchers have discovered a link between abdominal fat in men and an increased risk of the sight-threatening disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

CERA Ph.D. student. Dr. Madeleine Adams. examined the link in 21,287 men and women aged between 40-69 years of age.

The study found that for men, even small increases in their waist-to-hip ratio are associated with an increased risk of AMD.

Men with significant abdominal obesity are most at risk of severe vision loss, with a 75 per cent increased risk of developing late-stage AMD.

"Abdominal fat put men at a much higher risk of developing AMD than their slimmer counterparts," Dr. Adams said.

"Abdominal fat can be thought of as an organ. It's metabolically active and releases pro-inflammatory chemicals and hormones. This feeds into our hypothesis that AMD is a result of abnormal inflammation." 

According to Dr. Adams, the increased risk of AMD in this group could be due to the release of estrogen from abdominal fat.

"We found that the associations between abdominal fat and AMD were weaker in women. This could be due to women being exposed to higher levels of estrogen during their lifetime and therefore being less sensitive to its effects," Dr. Adams said.

"The study suggests that keeping yourself trim, through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise, could reduce your risk of AMD and subsequent vision loss."

AMD is Australia's leading cause of vision loss and blindness, affecting around one in seven people over the age of 50 and the incidence increases with age.

The study is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Adapted from the Center for Eye Research Australia

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