You can use your existing Medical Independent, MediLearning or PharmacistCPD account to log in. is Ireland's only investigative medical news website for doctors, healthcare professionals and anyone with an interest in health issues.

Established in 2010, along with its sister publication The Medical Independent, our stated aim is to investigate and analyse the major issues affecting healthcare and the medical profession in Ireland. The Medical Independent has won a number of awards for its investigative journalism, and its stories are frequently picked up by national digital, broadcast and print media. The Medical Independent is published by GreenCross Publishing.

Address: Top Floor, 111 Rathmines Road Lr, Dublin 6

Tel: 353 (01) 441 0024

GreenCross Publishing is owned by Graham Cooke.

The benefits of registering: only registered users:
  • receive the ecCopy two days prior to the printed edition.
  • have automatic access to our free CPD sites.
  • can partake in our online MCQs.
  • can enter our online sports quiz.

Sign up now for ease of access to The Medical Independent, Ireland’s most frequently published medical newspaper, delivering award-winning news and investigative reporting.

Download the new Mindo app for both IOS & Android.

  • Get notified when a story goes live
  • Access Premium Content
  • Read Offline

You are reading 1 of 2 free-access articles allowed for 30 days

Unhealthy diets leading to rise in preventable eye diseases

By Mindo - 05th Jun 2019 | 7 views

Unhealthy diets and poor lifestyle behaviours have led to a significant rise in preventable, potentially blinding diseases, with a lack of awareness among the public about the risks, a special session on nutrition and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at the 2019 ICO Annual Conference heard.

Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, Lecturer in Vision Sciences, University of Southampton, UK, discussed the ‘Cellular Consequences of an Unhealthy Diet — Trafficking Defects in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE)’. His research is looking at how disease-causing pathways triggered by poor nutrition could impact RPE cells.

Damage to RPE cells occur at the onset of AMD, making them less equipped to support the eye’s photoreceptors, the cells in the retina which respond to light. The death of photoreceptors leads to permanent sight loss.

Discussing the published results of his team’s work to date, Dr Ratnayaka said: “Although the effects of poor nutrition in eye health have been studied in large populations, how this actually brings about disease-causing changes in retinal cells is less well understood.

“We also found that some lysosomes appeared to remain undamaged, even in such stressed RPE, suggesting an altogether new way in which damaged cells could be rescued to prevent eventual sight loss.

“As our results showed how the waste disposal system of the RPE becomes damaged by unhealthy diet-driven disease pathways, our next step is to find out whether this type of damage can be reversed through better nutrition and if stressed or damaged, RPE cells can possibly be rescued.” Potential new therapies developed along these lines could offer new treatments for some AMD patients.

Pictured at the ICO Annual Conference 2019 Nutrition and Age-related Macular Degeneration Symposium were (L-R): Mr Mark Cahill, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin, Miss Monique Hope-Ross, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Birmingham University and Honorary Consultant Surgeon at the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre and Good Hope Hospital, UK (retired), Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, Lecturer in Vision Sciences, University of Southampton, Dr Fiona Harney, Ophthalmic Physician,
NUI Galway, and Dr Sinéad Corr, Assistant Professor in Microbiology, The Moyne Institute of Preventative Medicine, Trinity College Dublin

Also speaking during this session was Dr Sinéad C Corr, PhD, Assistant Professor in Microbiology, The Moyne Institute of Preventive Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, who discussed how human health is influenced by the gut microbiota, with increasing associations with disease, including inflammatory bowel disease. Despite extensive research efforts, how the microbiota impact development of disease is not completely understood, but it is clear that a two-way communication exists between the microbiota and the immune system, she said. Understanding this crosstalk will enable development of novel therapeutic strategies to promote health and reduce disease. Much of Dr Corr’s talk focused on her team’s recent research on identifying a novel regulator of the gut microbiome, mir21, which when its expression is lost, leads to a protective effect against intestinal inflammation, specifically by altering the microbiome towards a healthier profile, enhancing the presence of beneficial members. Understanding how the host and its microbial inhabitants interact is important to allow the targeting of the microbiome in disease settings, she noted.

In a similar vein, also speaking during this session, Ms Monique Hope-Ross, Honorary Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre and Good Hope Hospital, UK, emphasised how a healthy gut microbiome with diverse species is critical for health and wellbeing and conversely, a less diverse microbiome is associated with non-communicable diseases. The microbiome is altered by many factors, one of which is nutrition, she pointed out, with the typical modern Western diet lacking in diversity, with inadequate plant and fibre consumption for our needs.

She said a so-called junk-food diet, largely based on processed carbohydrates and little, if any fibre, is highly associated with the development of obesity and non-communicable diseases.

She added that a diet high in vegetables with less processed food and meat is associated with better long-term health outcomes. Changing to a low-carbohydrate diet, for example, has been shown to induce remission in many people suffering from diabetes, and hence reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy, Ms Hope-Ross said.

Leave a Reply

Latest Issue
The Medical Independent – 24 June 2021

You need to be logged in to access this content. Please login or sign up using the links below.

Most Read