Researchers say having an orange a day can help keep away common condition that causes vision loss.

WESTMEAD, Australia — Cartoon legend Bugs Bunny may have great eyesight thanks to all those carrots he’s munched on through the years. But for older adults, eating a serving of oranges each day may be the best safeguard against age-related vision loss. In a new study, oranges have been shown to reduce the risk of developing late macular degeneration by as much as 60 percent.

Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research discovered that the flavonoids in oranges provide special protection against age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss in adults over age 50.

“Essentially we found that people who eat at least one serving of oranges every day have a reduced risk of developing macular degeneration compared with people who never eat oranges,” says lead author Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney in a media release. “Even eating an orange once a week seems to offer significant benefits.”

Researchers based their findings on data collected through the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a longitudinal study of the impact of diet and lifestyle on health and chronic disease outcomes.

The study began in 1992 with 2,856 adults ages 49 and older. Researchers collected information on dietary intake through semiquantitative food-frequency questionnaires, using USDA guidelines to estimate the flavonoid content of foods. Long-term nutrient intake was compared to health outcomes, with cases of macular degeneration established through retinal photographs.

Of the 2,037 participants who completed the study, researchers found a direct correlation with consumption of oranges and a reduced risk of macular degeneration. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2.1 million Americans over the age of 50 have late age-related macular degeneration, which causes problems with the retina and leads to loss of central vision. There is currently no cure for macular degeneration, which is more common in light-skinned people and women.

Past research has focused on how such nutrients as vitamins C, E and A impact eye health. “Our research is different because we focused on the relationship between flavonoids and macular degeneration,” Gopinath said.

Flavonoids are phytonutrients in plant-based foods that often give them their color. “Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants found in almost all fruits and vegetables, and they have important anti-inflammatory benefits for the immune system,” Gopinath says. “We examined common foods that contain flavonoids such as tea, apples, red wine and oranges.” Other sources of flavonoids include other citrus fruits, citrus fruit juices, berries and legumes.

Researchers say their findings show a link between consumption of flavonoids and protection against age-related macular degeneration. The flavonoids in oranges, in particular, protect against macular degeneration. “Significantly, the data did not show a relationship between other food sources protecting the eyes against the disease,” Gopinath adds.

Researchers say future cohort studies are needed to confirm these findings. The ultimate goal is a better understanding of how environmental and genetic factors influence health outcomes.

“Our research aims to understand why eye diseases occur, as well as the genetic and environmental conditions that may threaten vision,” Gopinath concludes.

In the meantime, look to oranges to provide more than Vitamin C.

The study results were published in the August 2018 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

About Terra Marquette

Terra is a Denver-area freelance writer, editor and researcher. In her free time, she creates playlists for every mood.

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