Vision loss: Acid found in five cooking oils linked to blindness

Medical breakthrough could cure common forms of blindness

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Vision loss is a common symptom of ageing, but there are many ways to preserve eyesight. Some evidence suggests vegetable oils should be avoided, but studies probing their connection to vision loss have produced mixed results. There is substantial evidence, however, that linoleic acid, found in several cooking oils, can increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration – a leading cause of blindness around the world.

A landmark study dating 30 years highlighted a link between a high intake of linoleic acid and a higher chance of age-macular degeneration.

According to WebMD, the acid is found in eh following cooking oils:

  • Safflower
  • Sunflower
  • Corn
  • Soybean
  • Sesame.

“Health experts suggest cooking oils with less than four grams of saturated fats per tablespoon. Stay away from one with hydrogenated oils and trans fats,” says the health body.

Research published in JAMA Ophthalmology supported these claims in 2001, after finding that high consumption of linoleic acid apparently led to age-related macular degeneration.

High intake of omega-3 fatty acid, on the other hand, was associated with a lower risk for age-related macular degeneration among individuals consuming diets low in linoleic acid.

The authors explained: “Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness in the United States and other developed countries.

“Dietary fats could affect ocular blood vessels or be involved in oxidative processes that contribute to the development of the advanced stage of macular degeneration.”

Linoleic acid, in its pure form, plays an important role in support of heart health, reducing blood total and “bad” cholesterol.

One major issue with vegetable oil, however, is that they undergo extensive heat and chemical processing.

The health body Weight and Wellness explains that this process causes oils to become oxidised in the end.

This may cause inflammation of the tissues throughout the body, including issues in the eyes.

Researchers have previously suggested that the omission of processed oils from the diet may reduce both the risk of developing macular degeneration and slow its progression.

This advice is particularly relevant for older adults, as macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and older.

The condition occurs when the macula – the most sensitive part of the retina – becomes damaged, affecting central vision.

This usually affects a person’s ability to see straight ahead and focus on activities like watching television or driving.

It may also interfere with activities that require fine, detailed vision, which the body needs to read newsprint and sew.

Previous research published in the Cochrane Database Systemic Review, in 2019, also highlighted a risk of dry eye disease with a higher intake of omega-6 fatty acids too.

The condition is associated with symptoms of ocular discomfort, dryness, irritation, burning and light sensitivity.

Although the condition has no connection to age-related macular degeneration, it can cause mild vision impairment, and lead to blindness in extreme cases.

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