Objective: To determine the association between alcohol intake and the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Design: Case control study.
Participants: The sample consisted of 3072 adults 45 to 74 years of age with macular changes indicative of AMD who participated in a nationally representative sample of the first National Health Nutrition and Examination Survey (NHANES-1) between 1971 and 1975: (a) the ophthalmology data set and (b) the medical history questionnaire.
Main outcome measures: Alcohol intake and the risk of developing AMD were measured. AMD was determined by staff at the National Eye Institute by fundoscopy examination using standardized protocol.
Results: Overall, 184 individuals (6%) had AMD. We observed a statistically significant but negative association between AMD and the type of alcohol consumed in a bivariate model (OR 0.86; 95% CI 0.73, 0.99). In the same model, age maintained a consistently strong association with AMD (OR 1.08; 95% CI 1.06-1.11; P < .001). Among the different types of alcohol consumed in NHANES-1 (beer, wine, and liquor), the effect of wine, either alone (OR 0.66; 95% CI 0.55-0.79) or in combination with beer (OR 0.66; 95% CI 0.55-0.79) or liquor (OR 0.74; 95% CI 0.63-0.86), dominated the negative association observed between AMD and alcohol type. Additionally, a statistically significant and negative association between wine and AMD was noted after adjusting for the effect of age, gender, income, history of congestive heart failure, and hypertension (OR 0.81; 95% CI 0.67-0.99).
Conclusion: Moderate wine consumption is associated with decreased odds of developing AMD. Health promotion and disease prevention activities directed at cardiovascular disease may help reduce the rate of AMD-associated blindness among older people. The nature and pathophysiology of this association warrant further investigation.