Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in developed nations. AMD is anticipated to affect 196 million people worldwide, by 2020. However, the etiology of this disease remains unknown. Aging, genetic, and environmental influences have generally been implicated as major etiologic factors. We sought to examine the hypothesis that consumption of the 'displacing foods of modern commerce,' which equate to processed, nutrient-deficient and potentially toxic foods, may be the primary and proximate cause of AMD. To evaluate this hypothesis, we ran correlative AMD prevalence data against well-known proxy markers of processed food consumption, namely, sugar and vegetable oils, in 25 nations. In twenty-one nations, published studies provided AMD prevalence data and in four Pacific Island nations, practicing ophthalmologists in the regions completed retrospective chart analyses to estimate AMD prevalence in their respective regions. To estimate AMD prevalence historically, an extensive review of published papers and ophthalmic literature was completed. This review indicates that, between the years 1851 and 1930, AMD was a medical rarity worldwide, which then rose modestly in prevalence in the 1930s in the U.S. and U.K, finally elevating to epidemic proportions by 1975 in the U.S. Numerous developed nations have followed suit in recent decades. Simultaneously, between approximately 1880 and 2009, processed, nutrient-deficient foods gradually supplanted and displaced whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods in developed nations, such that by 2009, 63 percent of the American diet was made up of nutrient-deficient foods in the form of refined white flour, added sugars, vegetable oils, and artificially created trans fats. The correlative data in 25 nations shows that increasing sugar and polyunsaturated vegetable oil consumption is invariably associated with new onset or rising prevalence of AMD, generally within about 30-40years of the beginning of increasing consumption of these proxy marker processed food components. The correlative data also demonstrates that, when consumption of sugar is moderate, but "harmful vegetable oil" consumption remains extremely low or absent, the prevalence of AMD remains rare. This study supports the hypothesis that the 'displacing foods of modern commerce,' which equate to processed, nutrient-deficient, and potentially toxic foods, are the primary and proximate cause of AMD. This study also supports the conclusion that macular degeneration is entirely preventable, through ancestral dietary strategy and avoidance of processed foods. Finally, this research has implications for patients with existing early and intermediate stages of AMD.
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