Semester of Graduation

Fall 2017


Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition and Food Sciences

Document Type



Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness among the elderly worldwide. Retinal problems, specifically in the macula, hold potential for development of AMD. Macular pigment optical density (MPOD) gives a measure of the thickness of the macula and therefore health of the macula. Some of the populations at risk for development of AMD include being white, female, and having light eye color. Factors related to the development of the disease have been divided into modifiable and non-modifiable; non-modifiable include a genetic predisposition. Control of modifiable factors, including body mass index (BMI) and diet [dietary intake of lutein+ zeaxanthin (L+Z) and docosahexaenoic acid + eicosapentaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n3 +EPA, 20:5n3)], have been associated with a reduction in prevalence of the disease. To date, few studies have evaluated MPOD in young adults, and to the best of our knowledge no studies have evaluated the relationship of MPOD to those factors in that population. We posed the question: What factors (diet, BMI, gender, ethnicity, eye color) affect macular health in a young adult population? MPOD was measured for 475 young adults (18-28 years old) using a macularmetrics densitometer. Dietary information was collected using a food frequency questionnaire and a 24-hour dietary recall. BMI for each subject was calculated.

Young females had lower MPOD values than males (0.3295 vs 0.3659). There was no difference with BMI or eye color. There were no differences among normal, overweight and obese BMI groups (p > 0.05). However, combined normal+ overweight subjects vs obese had higher MPOD (p= 0.032). Employing sequential regression, the addition of DHA+EPA and L+Z improved the model beyond that provided by gender and BMI.

Dietary intake of DHA+EPA and L+Z was higher in males than in females. However, in general, the consumption of those nutrients was low in both males and females. In conclusion, female gender and obese BMI seem to be related to MPOD in this young population. Dietary information points to a necessity for early education about eye health, nutrition and body weight for young adults.



Committee Chair

Lammi-Keefe, Carol