Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia interviewed more than 2,000 adults aged over 50 and followed them over a 15-year period.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that people who ate at least one serving of oranges every day had more than a 60 per cent reduced risk of developing late macular degeneration 15 years later.
"Essentially we found that people who eat at least one serve of orange every day have a reduced risk of developing macular degeneration compared with people who never eat oranges," she said.
"Even eating an orange once a week seems to offer significant benefits. The data shows that flavonoids found in oranges appear to help protect against the disease," Gopinath said.
Until now most research has focused on the effects of common nutrients such as vitamins C, E and A on the eyes.
"Our research is different because we focused on the relationship between flavonoids and macular degeneration, she said.
Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants found in almost all fruits and vegetables, and they have important anti-inflammatory benefits for the immune system.
"We examined common foods that contain flavonoids such as tea, apples, red wine and oranges. Significantly, the data did not show a relationship between other food sources protecting the eyes against the disease," Gopinath said.
Age is the strongest known risk factor for macular degeneration and the disease is more likely to occur after the age of 50. There is currently no cure for the disease, the researchers said.
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