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Modifying your diet may be an effective way to decrease the risk of diabetes retinopathy 

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) remains a major diabetes complication and cause of vision loss, affecting over one-third of diabetes patients worldwide.

Risk factors for developing DR include the duration someone has had diabetes, as well as chronic and frequent hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Evidence suggests that inflammation triggered by consistently high blood glucose can weaken the small blood vessels that supply the retina, leading to decreased blood flow and vision impairment.

Studies have also shown that diet quality can influence inflammatory markers in the body, with pro-inflammatory diets increasing the levels of these protein markers and contributing to chronic inflammation.

diabetic retinopathy

The dietary inflammatory index (DII) was developed in 2014 as a way to score the inflammatory potential of a particular diet.

To do this, the DII compares the individual parts of a diet with the related inflammatory biomarkers, which then produces a numerical score.

DII scores tend to be higher for pro-inflammatory foods and lower for anti-inflammatory foods.

In a recent study published in BMC Ophthalmology, Liu et al. aimed to investigate the relationship between diet-related inflammation and DR among United States adults. In their cross-sectional study, authors used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 24-hour dietary recall data collected between 2005-2008 to calculate DII scores. These scores were then used to compare 117 diabetes patients with DR to 110 diabetes patients without DR. The study authors also compared data collected for HbA1c, BMI, smoking status, hypertension, and duration of diabetes.

Study results showed that participants with DR had higher DII values, as well as higher HbA1c level, obesity, and longer duration of diabetes compared to participants without DR.

Findings also suggested that each incremental increase in DII score significantly raised the risk of DR in study participants. Specifically, each one-point increase in DII score increased the odds of having DR by 38%.

Indeed, the outcomes of this study indicate that modifying diet may be an effective way to decrease the risk of diabetes retinopathy.

Consuming more anti-inflammatory foods, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fatty fish, and unsaturated oils may help to reduce inflammatory markers, thereby preventing damage to blood vessels in the retina.

If you would like to learn more about diabetic retinopathy or how diet can influence chronic inflammation, we encourage you to reach out to your healthcare provider or one of the clinicians at Integrated Diabetes Services to discuss your options.

Article by IDS Intern, Krystal Bosenbark, MPH, MS

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