Exploring attitudes towards dietary modification and nutritional supplementation in people with and without age-related macular degeneration

  • Rebekah Stevens

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause for visual impairment and blindness registration in the developed world. Due to the large amounts of conflicting AMD research on the role of nutrition and antioxidant intake, it is difficult for patients and practitioners to determine which measures can be taken to slow down the disease progression.
The aim of this research was to determine the beliefs and knowledge that patients with AMD have about nutrition, to identify whether their condition is preventing them from eating a healthy diet, and to discover what their diet consists of.
For the initial study, 158 participants with AMD (mean age 79 ± 7.8 years) and 50 participants without AMD (mean age 67 ± 8 years) were recruited from the Macular Society helpline, or from optometric practice. Participants had a 25 minute telephone interview where a 36-question survey was completed. The survey elicited demographic information, and questions covered the knowledge that participants had on nutrition and their current diet.
The results from this survey uncovered three major findings: 1) 100% of AMD participants felt that they do not have enough information and support from eye-care practitioners regarding nutrition, 2) AMD patients are confused over, and display a lack of knowledge of, which foods are beneficial for eye health and when and what nutritional supplements to take, evidenced by 65% of participants not taking the correct dosage 3) AMD patients are not eating enough nutrients that would be beneficial for their condition - consuming an average of 1.4mg of lutein and zeaxanthin rather than the recommended 10mg.
A clinical decision-making aid was created as an intervention based upon these findings. The aim of the aid was to help eye-care practitioners give the correct nutritional advice to their patients. Founded on the AREDS 2 inclusion and exclusion criteria, practitioners are able to identify which patients could benefit from a nutritional supplement, and which patients could benefit from dietary modification. An evaluation of the aid with 72 qualified eye-care practitioners exhibited a statistically significant increase in confidence after using the aid for two weeks. An evaluation using 51 student optometrists showed a statistically significant increase in confidence and a statistically significant increase in appropriate management of patients after using the aid.
This project has elicited findings that are significant for AMD patient education. It is hoped that through these studies, patients will receive consistent advice about the risk factors for AMD, the link between AMD and nutrition, and the importance of maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Date of Award26 Nov 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorHannah Bartlett (Supervisor) & Richard Cooke (Supervisor)


  • age-related macular degeneration
  • diet
  • flowchart
  • nutrition
  • survey

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