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Leafy greens, AMD and beetroot

07/11/2018By Myles Hume
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Eating beetroot and leafy greens that are rich in vegetable nitrates could reduce the risk of developing early-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a new Australian study suggests.

Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in New South Wales interviewed more than 2,000 Australian adults aged 49 and above and followed them during a 15-year period.

The research showed people over 50 who ate between 100–142mgs of vegetable nitrates each day had a 35% lower risk of developing early AMD than people who ate fewer than 69mgs of vegetable nitrates daily.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath, from the Westmead Institute and University of Sydney, said the link between vegetable nitrates and macular degeneration could have important implications.


“If our findings are confirmed, incorporating a range of foods rich in dietary nitrates – like green leafy vegetables and beetroot – could be a simple strategy to reduce the risk of early macular degeneration.”
Bamini Gopinath, Westmead

“This is the first time the effects of dietary nitrates on macular degeneration risk has been measured,” she said.

“If our findings are confirmed, incorporating a range of foods rich in dietary nitrates – like green leafy vegetables and beetroot – could be a simple strategy to reduce the risk of early macular degeneration.”

Spinach has approximately 20mg of nitrate per 100g, while beetroot has nearly 15mg of nitrate per 100g.

The research did not indicate any additional benefits for people who exceeded 142mgs of dietary nitrate each day. Likewise, it didn’t show any significant connections between vegetable nitrates and late stage AMD, and there was no association between non-vegetable nitrates and AMD risk.

The research compiled data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that started in 1992. It’s one of the world’s largest epidemiology studies, measuring diet and lifestyle factors against health outcomes and a range of chronic diseases.

“Our research aims to understand why eye diseases occur, as well as the genetic and environmental conditions that may threaten vision,” Gopinath said.

The full paper is available online at the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It was undertaken in collaboration with researchers from the Centre for Kidney Research, Westmead; University of Sydney; Edith Cowan University; and University of Western Australia.

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More reading: Australian research finds oranges could prevent late AMD.

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