Olive Oil May Protect Against Age-Related Macular Degeneration

A recent French study reported a decreased risk of late AMD among olive oil users, "after adjustment for multiple potential confounders.”

Aug. 3, 2016
By Negar Jamshidi

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In devel­oped coun­tries, the pri­mary cause of blind­ness in older adults is age-related mac­u­lar degen­er­a­tion (AMD). The risk fac­tors for AMD are mul­ti­fac­to­r­ial and linked to lifestyle habits such as smok­ing, poor diet and phys­i­cal activ­ity as well as genetic factors. 

According to The Lancet Global Health pub­li­ca­tion, from 2020 to 2040 AMD bur­den is pro­jected to increase by about 40 per­cent globally.
See Also: Olive Oil Health Benefits
The lack of effec­tive treat­ment modal­i­ties for advanced AMD has refo­cused efforts of researchers on devel­op­ing pre­ven­tive strate­gies for AMD devel­op­ment or pro­gres­sion, aimed at reversible risk fac­tors such as nutri­tion and lifestyle practices. 

Increasing clin­i­cal evi­dence asso­ci­ated adher­ence to a Mediterranean diet (MD) rich in olive oil with reduced risk of AMD pro­gres­sion; the most recent study on MD found the risk of AMD devel­op­ment to late stage low­ered as much as 26 per­cent in older adults. 

Despite exten­sive epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies on the poten­tial role of nutri­tion espe­cially dietary fat in AMD pre­ven­tion, there are very few pub­lished stud­ies on direct olive oil and AMD association. 

The find­ings of a recent study by French researchers revealed a direct link between olive oil con­sump­tion and reduced inci­dence of AMD in a group of elderly French volunteers. 

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The French study design and some of their find­ings were remark­ably sim­i­lar to a large Australian study, the only other pub­lished clin­i­cal research on a direct asso­ci­a­tion between olive oil intake and lower occur­rence of late AMD.

However, the French find­ings revealed greater reg­u­lar con­sump­tion of olive oil by the French par­tic­i­pants (73.2 per­cent) com­pared to the Australian study pop­u­la­tion (53.6 per­cent). In addi­tion, the inves­ti­ga­tors com­pared other oils and but­ter as related to AMD and did not find any association.

Although olive oil major com­po­nent is oleic acid, nev­er­the­less the role of dietary monoun­sat­u­rated fatty acids (MUFAs) and its link to AMD is highly ques­tion­able due to con­tra­dic­tory pub­lished reports. 

French researchers deduced that the pro­tec­tive effect of olive oil might be due to pos­si­bly phe­no­lic com­po­nents such as oleo­can­thal, hydrox­y­ty­rosol and oleu­ropein all pre­vi­ously reported to exhibit sig­nif­i­cant anti-inflam­ma­tory and antiox­i­dant activities.

One plau­si­ble pro­tec­tive mech­a­nism, the authors argued is through oleo­can­thal, which has com­pa­ra­ble anti-inflam­ma­tory effects to a low dose of ibupro­fen, whereby it low­ers oxida­tive stress nat­u­rally over time reduc­ing pro­gres­sion of AMD in older adults.

Interestingly, pre­vi­ous in vitro stud­ies have demon­strated that antiox­i­dant activ­ity of hydrox­y­ty­rosol imparted con­sid­er­able pro­tec­tion of mito­chon­dria within retina cells of the eyes against antiox­i­dant dam­age. Therefore, the syn­er­gis­tic mech­a­nism action of olive oil bioac­tive com­po­nents remains to be determined.

The French group also showed that other con­found­ing fac­tors such as diet, socioe­co­nomic sta­tus and BMI had neg­li­gi­ble influ­ence on the con­nec­tion between olive oil use and late AMD.

Authors con­cluded that larger stud­ies are required for estab­lish­ing whether olive oil reduces genetic risk in adults affected by AMD. In addi­tion, fur­ther stud­ies will clar­ify the under­ly­ing pro­tec­tive mech­a­nism of olive oil phy­tonu­tri­ents on the late AMD onset and progression.



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