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Drinkers more likely to develop age-related eye disease

image-tools (61)Researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) have found a connection between moderate levels of alcohol consumption and one of Australia’s most common causes of vision loss; age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a degenerative eye disease that affects the central area of the retina called the macula. Early signs of AMD can be detected in up to 1 out of 7 Australian aged over 50 and it is the leading cause of blindness in Australia.

Researchers examined data from 20,963 participants in The Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study, aged 40-69 between 1990-1994. They compared alcohol intake recorded in baseline surveys to AMD prevalence determined between 2003-2007.

Consuming more than 20g of alcohol per day, the current Australian recommendation for maximum daily intake, was associated with an increase in early AMD of approximately 20% for both women and men, compared to non-drinkers. This was significant after adjusting for other known AMD associated risk factors including sex, age, smoking, and diet.

A standard glass of wine and a standard glass or bottle of beer contain approximately 15g of alcohol each, while a nip of spirits contains approximately 10g of alcohol.

Lead author Dr Madeleine Adams observed, “While previous studies have illustrated the risks of heavy drinking to eye health, until now there was little evidence regarding the association between moderate alcohol consumption and early AMD.”

“Our study shows that even what most Australians would consider to be a moderate intake of 2 glasses of beer or wine a day can also increase your risk of developing AMD, compared to non-drinkers,” she said.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and Cancer Council Victoria and was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology last month.