Myopia is linked to refined starch in diet

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The Independent Online

Growing consumption of highly refined starches such as bread and cereals may be the cause of increasingly widespread short-sightedness, according to new research.

Growing consumption of highly refined starches such as bread and cereals may be the cause of increasingly widespread short-sightedness, according to new research.

The surprising link could explain why myopia, in which the eyeball grows slightly too long to focus on distant objects easily, has become more prevalent in the past 200 years in developed countries where such processed foods have become staples.

The suggestion is borne out by observations of Inuit and of Pacific populations, where one group that has adopted Western food has a rocketing rate of myopia, while the other, which relies on a protein-rich fish diet, does not.

The reason is that refined starches found in modern breads are digested more rapidly, prompting the pancreas to generate high levels of insulin to break down the sugars that are produced. But high levels of insulin are also known to lead to a drop in levels of "binding protein-3", which is crucial in the growth process – and to which the eye is particularly sensitive.

Loren Cordain, an evolutionary biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and Jennie Brand Miller, a nutrition scientist at the University of Sydney, told New Scientist magazine that their theory could explain why 30 per cent of people of European descent now suffer from some level of myopia.

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