News Briefs

Free eye examination for people at risk of AMD, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma

Centre for Eye Health logo

The Centre for Eye Health in Sydney (Australia), an initiative of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and The University of New South Wales, provides state-of-the-art eye imaging and visual system diagnostic services to the general community, at no charge. A major goal of CFEH is to perform detailed eye examinations for individuals particularly at risk of glaucoma, diabetic retinal disease and age-related macular degeneration. Early diagnosis means the earliest possible intervention to prevent or minimise long-term vision loss. To visit CFEH, you just need a referral from your optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Low g-eyes
Dietary factors are known risk factors for age-related macular degeneration. In ‘Food for Thought’ (May 2006) we reported on research suggesting that the quality of the carbohydrates you eat may help to bring it on — or hold it off. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirms that it would be a good idea to make a low GI diet part of any AMD prevention plan along with foods you already know about such as dark green leafy vegetables, a variety of fruits (all different colours) and fish. Prof. Paul Mitchell from Sydney University’s Department of Ophthalmology says the prospective population based study shows that a high GI diet is a risk factor for early AMD – the recognized precursor of sight-threatening late AMD. ‘Low-glycemic-index foods such as oatmeal may protect against early AMD,’ say the researchers in their conclusion.


The results of this earlier Australian study have been backed up by a recent review. There are a number of reasons why high GI diets may increase the risk of the development of AMD, says Dr Alan Barclay "high post-meal blood glucose levels and high average blood glucose levels lead to increased glycation of proteins within the eye, increased oxidative stress, increased blood pressure, activation of protein kinase C, and direct gluco-toxic effects on the retina itself".

Low blood glucose affects food cravings
A small but interesting study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation reports that we lose our ability to control desire and feel an increased urge to eat when our blood glucose levels drop. The researchers from Yale University School of Medicine and the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine showed 14 healthy participants high and low calorie foods (from cake and ice-cream to tofu, fruit and vegetables) and non-food images and measured how seeing these images related to their desire for food and their brain activity under varying blood glucose conditions. Using scans to detect brain activity following a drop in participants’ BGLs, they then compared the results of the scans to the participants’ stated desires to eat different foods. They found that small drops in blood glucose activated the region of the brain that produces a desire to eat, while adequate levels of blood glucose activated the region of the brain that controls impulses. You can read the NHS Choices appraisal of the study HERE.

Ice cream

What's new?
#1 Download – Miracle foods, myths and the media. “Curry could save your life.” “Beetroot can fight dementia.” “Asthma risk linked to burgers.” Every day there’s a new crop of seemingly life-changing headlines about how the food we eat affects our health. This special NHS Choices report looks at some of the foods that regularly appear in the news and examines whether the reports match the scientific evidence behind them. The reviewers point out that: ‘Research into single foods on our health is notoriously difficult to carry out. We have complex diets and it is difficult to disentangle the effects of one particular food or compound from all the others we consume. This means that many of the studies behind the superfood claims have limitations. These limitations are rarely reported in the media, and even more rarely given their true significance.’ The report discusses limitations such as confounding factors, inaccurate memories, proxy outcomes and animal and laboratory studies and why RCTs (randomised controlled studies) and systematic reviews are generally the best type of study for finding out if a food has any effect. You can download the report HERE.

Miracle foods

#2 Event Bees, Bureaucracy and Biosecurity: Australia’s food future on a knife’s edge In September GI News, we reported bees around the world are in decline and without them it will be pretty hard to tuck into that low GI plant-based diet. Did you know:
‘Australia is the last remaining country to remain free of the devastating Varroa mite – the key contributor to decimating honeybee populations around the world. Australia however faces its own onslaught of challenges, which if not urgently arrested have the potential to wipe out honeybee populations in Australia within 10–20 years,’ writes fourth generation apiarist Jodie Goldsworthy in UPDATE, the newsletter of the Australian Association of Food Professionals. She says: ‘In 2008 the small hive beetle breached our biosecurity and snuck into Australia. It has now spread across much of Australia establishing itself particularly well in our environment and has changed beekeeping forever in this country for the worse. Another unwanted intruder, still classified as an “incursion” is the Asian bee (Apis cerana – Java strain) which arrived in 2007 and is currently confined around Cairns. The Asian bee is the natural host of the Varroa mite.’

Bee in flower

As a special Q&A event for the Crave Sydney International Food Festival the Australian Association of Food Professionals has put together an expert panel to highlight and discuss the issues, and what is and isn’t being done:

Where: Australian Museum Theatrette College St Sydney
When: 23 October 11am–1pm
Cost: $25
Bookings/inquiries: 0448488080