Doctors recommend that people with macular degeneration avoid simple carbohydrates and foods high in cholesterol.

The macula is the part of the eyes that controls central vision. Macular degeneration is most common in people after 60 years of age.

According to a 2022 study, it currently affects 196 million people and is estimated to be 288 million by 2040.

Some common symptoms of macular degeneration include:

  • blurred vision
  • difficulty reading
  • sudden blind spots

Health experts have established connections between the consumption of certain foods and the progression of macular degeneration.

This article explores foods to avoid for people with macular degeneration. We also discuss sample meal plans.

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Refined carbohydrates are processed forms of natural carbohydrates. Industrial processing removes the nutritional components of carbohydrates, including beneficial fibers, vitamins, and minerals, resulting in a carbohydrate called empty calories.

Empty calories have a high glycemic index, are easily digestible, and can cause rapid spikes in blood glucose levels. The National Institute of Health (NIH) notes that a high glycemic index diet may lead to early-onset and progressive macular degeneration.

What the research shows

A 2020 article that examined the effects of various dietary patterns and carbohydrates on age-related macular degeneration found the following:

  • A western diet can cause early-onset or late-stage macular degeneration, consisting of a high intake of:
  • High consumption of processed fish and eggs and a low intake of fiber-rich foods such as whole wheat or rye bread can cause advanced macular degeneration.

Foods with high cholesterol may affect the eyes and increase a person’s risk of macular degeneration. This can occur when cholesterol blocks the blood supply to the eye, affecting central vision.

Examples of high cholesterol foods to avoid include:

  • meats with saturated fats, including:
    • red meat
    • sausage
    • bacon
  • saturated fats, such as:
  • full fat dairy
  • buttered popcorn
  • all forms of fried foods
  • packaged cookies, cakes, donuts, and pastries
  • potato chips and crackers
  • bakery goods that contain shortening

People with macular degeneration should limit or avoid the same foods that are unhealthy for individuals without the condition. They should also avoid foods that cause considerable blood cholesterol fluctuations.

What the research says

Older research shows that diets high in cholesterol cause the retina to degenerate, which is relevant to the development of macular degeneration.

A 2020 study associated a higher intake of trans fat — manufactured products that increase levels of cholesterol — with the presence of macular degeneration.

On the other hand, the researchers found potential protective effects against macular degeneration in people who consumed more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Read more about types of fats.

Other effects of cholesterol on the eyes

High cholesterol can affect the eyes in several other ways. This includes:

  • Arcus senilis: Lipid deposits can form as rings around the cornea and cause a condition that medical professionals call arcus or cornea senilis. The cornea is the thin transparent layer of the eyes.
  • Xanthelasma: In xanthelasma, plaques filled with cholesterol can appear at the medial canthus, where the upper and lower eyelids meet.
  • Retinal vein occlusion: According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cholesterol can build up around the eyes and block the veins that carry blood away from the eyes, causing retinal vein occlusion.

Doctors recommendations

People need regular checkups with an ophthalmologist to monitor their eye function.

In addition to working with a doctor, it may help to meet with a dietitian who can help a person understand nutrition labels and map out a meal plan.

A 2015 study notes that higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet can lower the progression of macular degeneration.

Some simple ideas for the meal include:


Lunch and dinner

  • fish such as tuna or salmon
  • green salad
  • eggplant lasagna
  • whole grain pita bread
  • salad with toasted nuts
  • baked skinless chicken with vegetables


People with macular degeneration need to reduce the number of refined carbohydrates and cholesterol consumed as this can increase the risks of macular degeneration.

Research suggests that a high fiber diet of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain toast, and oats can significantly benefit people with macular degeneration.