Ita eyesight break through

Reporter: Laura Sparks

It's the family legacy that haunts Ita Buttrose...

"It was devastating for this to happen to my father and you wouldn't simply want that to be your fate if there was some way to avoid it." Said Ita

A genetic history she wishes could be left in the past .. but which she knows could be her future.

Tonight we show how Ita plans to beat her chances of going blind...by eating her way out of it.

"If it's going to save my vision, if it's going to prevent me from getting macular degeneration well Ill eat as much spinach as you want me to just give it to me _ you'd eat anything I guess to stave off blindness _ absolutely" Said Ita

Ita has a family history of Macular Degeneration... the most common form of vision loss. This is what sufferers see.

"It's a disease of the retina, which is at the back of your eye and you lose your central vision, central vision is what allows you to drive, to read, do fine work, sew a button on things like that." Said Ita

There are 800,000 Australians with signs of this disease...that's 1 in 7 over the age of 50...in less than 20 years that figure will double...Ita does not want to be one of them.

"I saw what happened with dad, he was a journalist and an author like I am, this was a man who got up and read the newspapers every morning and now he couldn't and so it was devastating to my father." Said Ita

Lucky for Ita she is yet to show any signs of the disease...and she wants to keep it that way.

"I suppose you'd almost do anything to stop from going blind? Said Reporter

"Yeah because it's up to all of us, we know what to do now, we know this diet can slow the disease down, help reduce the risk, why wouldn't you do it." Said Ita

"You can eat your way out of your genetic risks." Said Dr Beaumont

Macular Degeneration is one of the few diseases where you can change your destiny by altering your diet...and in the process halving your chances of getting it....leading world expert on macular degeneration Dr Paul Beaumont

"You are able to have a major impact on your risk of this disease and rate of progression by eating the right foods." Said Dr Beaumont

Green leafy vegetables are at the top of the list...Salmon 2 to 3 times a week...and nuts particularly brazil nuts...Dr Beaumont explains.

"The fish actually reduces inflammation whereas the leafy green vegetables deposit lutein in your eye which acts as an internal sunglass and yet the nuts are probably important from an antioxidant point of view." Said Paul

And here's a surprise...carrots are no good!

"Studies have shown that if you eat a lot of beta carotein in your diet youre more like to develop MD _ why is that _ pretty simple the beta carotene in the carrot washes the lutein in the spinach which is protective out of your body, soyou lose the proection you get from your spinach and leafy green vegetables." Said Paul

It's here in the butter and margarine aisle where the debate heats up...while the eye experts warn their patients against eating margarine because of the vegetable fats in it...that they believe speed up the disease....cardiologists advise their patients the complete opposite... to eat margarine over butter because of the cholesterol associated with butter...So its hard to know which way to go?

"I don't have any heart problems and there's no heart problems that I'm aware of in my family but as far as I'm concerned our family risk is macular degeneration so its butter for me you've got to be guided by what your primary, you most important health risk is and as far as I'm concerned its MD." Said Ita

8 years ago Dr Beaumont warned those with a genetic risk of getting the disease to stop eating anything with vegetable oil in it...foods like margarine, sauces, dips and biscuits ...but he was criticised at the time

"Immediately after that there was enormous backlash coming out with this too early, there were only 2 or 3 studies at that time that supported, now theres been multiple studies." Said Paul

But today his advice remains the same.

"whilst there's a cloud of suspicion over vegetable oil they're best to avoid it and have a scraping of butter." Said Paul

ITA continues to hope her food choices will fend off any sight loss ...And she has this message....early detection is key to saving sight.

"Get your macular checked I cant stress that enough, if you've got any problems with your vision at all, because people assume as they get older if things are a bit blurred or lines are a bit wavey that maybe thats a normal part of getting older, but its not." Said Ita