Dietary patterns and retinal vessel caliber in the Irish Nun Eye Study

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    Retinal vessel abnormalities are associated with cardiovascular disease risk. Widening of retinal venules is associated with increased risk of stroke while narrowing of retinal arterioles independently predicts incident hypertension, coronary heart disease and diabetes. Dietary factors are known to play an important role in cardiovascular health. However, few studies have examined the association between dietary patterns (DPs) and retinal microvascular health.


    To examine the association between ‘a posteriori’- derived DPs and retinal vascular caliber (RVC) in older women with a restricted lifestyle.


    This was a cross-sectional study of 1233 participants (mean age: 76.3 years) from the Irish Nun Eye Study (INES). Computer-assisted software was used to measure RVC from digital eye images using standardized protocols. Dietary intake was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). DP analysis was performed using principal component analysis from completed FFQs. Regression models were used to assess associations between DPs and retinal vessel diameters, adjusting for age, body mass index, refraction, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular accident and fellow eye RVC.


    Two DPs were identified: a ‘healthy’ pattern with high factor loadings for fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and oily fish and an ‘unhealthy’ pattern with high factor loadings for sugar and sweets, chips, high fat dairy products and French fries. Adjusted linear regression analysis revealed that those who adhered most closely to the unhealthy DP had wider central retinal venular equivalent (CRVE) (p=0.03) and narrower central retinal arteriolar equivalent (CRAE) (p=0.01) compared to the least unhealthy DP. No independent relationship was observed between the healthy DP and RVC.


    In this cohort of older women with a restricted lifestyle, an unhealthy DP was independently associated with an unfavorable retinal profile, namely a widening of retinal venules and narrowing of retinal arterioles. Key words: Dietary


    • Dietary patterns and retinal vessel caliber in the Irish Nun Eye Study

      Rights statement: Copyright 2017 the authors. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited.

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    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-8
    JournalThe journal of nutrition, health & aging
    Journal publication date05 Dec 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 05 Dec 2017

    ID: 138564774