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John M. Nolan, Joanne Feeney, Rose Anne Kenny, Hilary Cronin, Claire O'Regan, George M. Savva, James Loughman, Ciaran Finucane, Eithne Connolly, Katie Meagher, Stephen Beatty; Education Is Positively Associated with Macular Pigment: The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2012;53(12):7855-7861. doi: 10.1167/iovs.11-9367.
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The three carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin, are found at the macula and referred to as macular pigment (MP). This study was undertaken to investigate determinants of MP in a large randomly selected sample from the Republic of Ireland (as part of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing [TILDA]).
MP optical density (MPOD) was measured using customized heterochromatic flicker photometry in 4373 participants. Sociodemographic and self reported health data was obtained using computer assisted personal interview (CAPI).
Mean (SD) MPOD for the study group was 0.203 (0.156) with a range of 0 to 1.01. MPOD was higher for participants with secondary education (mean [SD] = 0.205 [0.148]) than for those with only primary education or no education (mean [SD] = 0.183 [0.113]; P < 0.001). MPOD was also higher for those with tertiary education (mean [SD] = 0.232 [0.231]) compared with primary/no education or secondary education (P < 0.001 for both comparisons).
We report that MP is lower amongst those participants of a population-representative study who did not have secondary or third level education when compared with participants who had such education. Given the emerging evidence that MP is important for visual performance and comfort, and given the putative protection that this pigment confers against AMD (especially important in the context of increased risk of AMD in this social group), public health measures aimed at improving diet for this at-risk population need to be considered.
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