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 PhD student Dr Madeleine Adams examined the link in 21,287 men and women aged between 40 and 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 oestrogen 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 oestrogen 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.
(Source: Centre for Eye Research Australia)
For more information on obesity, health and social issues, and methods of weight loss, as well as some useful tools, see Obesity and Weight Loss.
For more information on age-related macular degeneration, including the effect of smoking, exercise and nutrition on eyes, as well as some useful animations and tips to keep eyes healthy, see Macular Degeneration.