Regular grape consumption may contribute to eye health by protecting the retina from deterioration, according to a study presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology conference in Orlando, Fla.

Grapes may aid eye healthThe study, done at the University of Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, investigated whether a diet supplemented with grapes could protect the photoreceptors in mice that have retinal degeneration.

Mice were fed either a grape-supplemented diet corresponding to three grapes servings per day for humans or one of two control diets. Lead investigator Abigail Hackam and researchers found that retinal function was significantly protected in the mice consuming the grape-enriched diet, according to a news release.

The retina contains the cells that respond to light, or photoreceptors. There are two types: rods and cones. The grape-consuming group tripled rod and cone photoreceptor responses compared with those on the control diets, and exhibited thicker retinas. Grape consumption also protected retinal function in an oxidative stress model of macular degeneration.

Further analysis found the grape diet resulted in lower levels of inflammatory proteins and higher amounts of protective proteins in the retinas.

“The grape-enriched diet provided substantial protection of retinal function which is very exciting,” Hackam said in the release. “And it appears that grapes may work in multiple ways to promote eye health from signaling changes at the cellular level to directly countering oxidative stress.”

Retinal degenerative diseases affect more than five million people in the U.S., and can cause blindness due to photoreceptor cell death.

The Orlando conference was May 4-8.