The Macular Society is a specialist charity for people affected by any form of macular disease. It supports people with central vision loss caused by macular degeneration. The Macular Society has 16,000 members, a busy helpline and counselling service, and 235 self-help support groups located across the UK. The charity has entered into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with academics from the School of Life and Health Sciences, led by ocular nutrition expert, Dr Hannah Bartlett, to tackle the effect of nutrition in age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The Macular Society has identified the need to educate patients and eye care professionals on the impact of nutrition on AMD. 513,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with late stage AMD, and this figure is expected to double by 2050. The largest series of clinical studies, carried out on the effect of nutrition on Age-Related Eye Disease (AREDS), found people with early stages of AMD, could reduce their risk of progression by taking an antioxidant nutritional supplement. There are a wealth of supplements commercially available, however a significant proportion contain ingredients not supported by robust scientific research. Aggressive marketing campaigns used by companies selling these products often leave consumers and advisors unclear on which product is most suitable. This KTP will help to provide research which will support education about nutrition in AMD so that the Macular Society becomes recognised as a trusted source of information by patients and a range of low vision & professional eye care stakeholders.
This project will also help to raise the profile of the Macular Society and therefore increase awareness of the condition, lead to increased membership, supporters and donations.
Key achievements of the project so far include the design and implementation of an innovative online nutrition patient portal which has been published on Macular Society’s website, as well as the development of a health professional portal to provide information for patients and health professionals. The interactive portal provides advice on the ways to reduce the risk of sight loss through improved nutrition and healthy living.
The KTP Associate on the project, Rachel Walsh said: “The long term aim of this project is to help maintain good eye health by educating people about the impact of nutrition in AMD. The Macular Society represents the biggest patient group in the sight loss sector so the work carried out on this project has the potential to reach a large amount of people at risk or suffering with AMD and could help improve their quality of life.”
For the academic team at Aston, the project will offer the chance to evaluate and expand on the vast amount of existing and emerging clinical research in nutrition and ocular health to provide stronger resources in this area in the future.