skip to Main Content

High-fat, low-fiber diet and tobacco use accelerate progression of diabetic eye disease

Results of analysis conducted by UH researcher and colleague recently published

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Feb 2, 2005

HONOLULU — A diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber accelerates the development of diabetic eye disease, according to a study published recently by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Public Health Sciences Professor Claudio Nigg and Dr. David Cundiff of Long Beach, Calif.

The article appears in the peer-reviewed online medical journal, Medscape General Medicine.

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20-74 years of age. Each year, between 12,000 to 24,000 people lose their sight because of diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease in which small arteries at the back of the eye are damaged.

Nigg and Cundiff used data from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, a $50-million government-funded randomized control trial involving 1,441 type 1-diabetics followed up to nine years. In addition, Nigg and Cundiff learned that:

· Limiting total dietary fat to 30 percent or less of calories and saturated fat to 10 percent or less as recommended by the American Heart Association, slows the progression of diabetic retinopathy by 33 percent;

· Tobacco use clearly increases the rate of retinopathy progression;

· A low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber diet significantly improves control of blood sugar and reduces the amount of insulin required; and

· Classical risk factors for large vessel cardiovascular disease—high blood pressure, obesity, and hyperlipidemia—also speed the development of retinopathy.

This analysis also confirmed many previous studies showing that a low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber diet decreases the risk of hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Future prospective studies of diabetic complications with subjects following a more plant-based diet are recommended.

The article can be viewed online at

For more information, contact:

· Claudio R. Nigg, PhD, Department of Public Health Sciences & Epidemiology, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, (808) 956-2862 or

· David K. Cundiff, MD, (562) 438-8805 or