Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the United States, is said to be a disease associated with aging but Dr. Chris Knobbe believes it’s mostly related to diet.
Nine years of extensive research and investigation has led Knobbe to conclude that AMD is driven by nutrient deficiencies and toxicity caused by processed foods.
Knobbe, an ophthalmologist, is the founder and president of the Cure AMD Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of AMD.
If Knobbe is correct, and his data and biochemical analysis suggests he is, it would line up with what we know about the most common chronic diseases today, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The root of the problem lies in mitochondrial dysfunction, which is caused by the excessive consumption of the so-called Standard American Diet, including toxic industrially processed seed oils (incorrectly called “vegetable oils”), refined flour, refined added sugars, and trans fats. Laying out his case in an ALL DOCS presentation, Knobbe noted that these substances make up a large portion of the average American diet.
Chronic Metabolic and Degenerative Disease ‘Didn’t Exist’
According to Knobbe, chronic metabolic and degenerative disease “clearly didn’t exist 125 years ago,” at least not nearly to the extent it does today. Knobbe bases that statement on a study by Dr. David Jones and colleagues, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012. The study looked at the history of disease over the past 200 years, comparing the top 10 causes of death in the United States from 1900 to 2010.
In 1900, the top four causes of death were infectious in nature: pneumonia/influenza, tuberculosis, gastrointestinal infections, and cardiac valvular disease. The latter is classified as heart disease, but Knobbe says: “This wasn’t coronary artery type heart disease. This was cardiac valvular disease driven by syphilis, endocarditis, and rheumatic fever … It was infectious still.”
By 2010, this had all changed, with chronic diseases replacing infectious diseases as the top killers.
“Today, heart disease, cancer, stroke, COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, all chronic diseases account for seven of the top 10 causes of death,” says Knobbe.
In reviewing the data, Knobbe found that diabetes of any type was rare in the 19th century, but it increased 25-fold in a period of 80 years.
He also cites data that found the obesity rate in the 19th century was 1.2 percent. By 1960, it had already risen to 13 percent—an 11-fold increase. It continues to climb steadily to this day.
He notes that if current trends hold, half of adults in the United States will be obese by 2030.
“So the increase looks something like … a 33-fold increase already in 115 years.”
That change in disease tracks another major change—the shift of the American diet.
“That’s the theme of this, essentially.”
“And I will submit to you that this has really been a global human experiment that began in 1866, it didn’t begin in 1980, you know, with our low-fat, low saturated-fat dietary guidelines, it began in the 19th century and nobody gave informed consent of us. Not one of us knew what we were getting into and most of us still don’t.”
That change was the introduction of polyunsaturated vegetable oil.
4 Primary Processed Food Culprits
The four primary components that make up processed foods that are, in turn, contributing to chronic diseases such as AMD, are sugar, industrially processed seed oils, refined flour, and trans fats. “Sugar has been in the food supply for hundreds of years, but between 1822 and 1999, sugar increased 17-fold … Cottonseed oil, the world’s first, highly polyunsaturated vegetable oil, introduced right here in the good old US of A in 1866. The entire world, or at least 99.9-plus percent of it had never seen a polyunsaturated vegetable oil, ever.”
The other major change was the invention of the roller mill, sometime around 1880, in Minneapolis.
“[The] roller mill gives us refined white, wheat flour, which is a nutrient deficient food. And then fourth, 1911, Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco. That’s trans fats, they’re hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.”
“By 2009, our own USDA reports that those four foods make up 63 percent of the American diet—63 percent. That’s the recipe for disaster.”
As the consumption of processed foods rose, so too did chronic diseases. According to Knobbe’s research, AMD was rare from 1851 to about 1930, but had reached epidemic proportions by the 1970s. As of 2020, 196 million people worldwide suffer from AMD.
“And what we always see is that the processed foods come first and then the AMD hits later,” Knobbe says.
“It’s always this way. There’s a temporal relationship. It’s at least 30 years of this consumption, probably closer to 50.”
Knobbe says it takes a certain amount of time on this diet for these chronic diseases to develop. There is also a dosage relationship, meaning the more of these foods that are eaten, the more disease that is seen.
“I believe if you look at all of our data, this becomes nearly a mathematical certainty that this relationship between food and macular degeneration exists.”
Knobbe also cites the work of Weston A. Price, the dentist who wrote the classic book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” In the 1900s, Price did extensive research on the link between oral health and physical diseases.
He was one of the major nutritional pioneers of all time, and his research revealed that refined sugar and white flour were the primary agents in tooth decay. In many ways, Knobbe is the 21st-century equivalent of Price.
Diet-Related Macular Degeneration
Knobbe believes “age-related” macular degeneration should be called diet-related macular degeneration instead. He says that out of all the components in processed foods, polyunsaturated vegetable oils are the greatest contributor. Comparing them to “biological poisons,” Knobbe notes that industrially processed seed oils are not only nutrient deficient but also pro-oxidative and pro-inflammatory.
To produce these oils, the seeds must first be crushed, heated, and pressed.
“When vegetable oils are produced … oil seeds are crushed, heated, pressed. They go through about four or five heatings …
“Then they go to a petroleum drive, hexane, solvent bath, right? And then it’s steamed, degummed … then they go through a chemical process of being alkalinized, bleached, and deodorized before they go into this bottle—and we think they’re healthy.”
“They’re extraordinarily oxidized. They’re toxic. Aldehydes in these, these are literally poison. These are extremely noxious agents.
These oils replaced healthier animal fats that had previously been used. He cites the work of nutrition pioneer Elmer V. McCollum, who, in the early 20th century, fed rats diets enriched with either 5 percent cottonseed oil or 1.5 percent butterfat.
“This is good butter,” Knobbe points out. “It’s coming from pasture-raised cattle grazing on grass, right? That’s all they had back then.”
Stark differences were observed among the rats, with the cottonseed oil group experiencing stunted growth, illness, and shorter survival. The rats fed butterfat fared much better, growing to about twice the size of the other rats and living about twice as long. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 in the pastured butterfat were a likely factor in the marked health differences.
“We need them to maintain our health and prevent degenerative disease.”
Knobbe says these vitamins are essential to maintain health and prevent degenerative disease.
“There’s absolutely no question in my mind—all the data supports this—that macular degeneration patients are vitamin A-, D-, and K2-deficient.”
Knobbe cites data from native populations around the globe, including the Maasai tribe in Eastern Africa, inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, and Tokelau in the South Pacific, which had very different diets with one major similarity: “In general … they have no refined sugar, no refined wheat, no processed foods, no vegetable oils.”
They also have little or no macular degeneration.
Vegetable Oils Cause Mitochondrial Failure, Insulin Resistance
AMD is ultimately a disease process rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction, insulin resistance, and the catastrophic cascade of health declines are triggered by the long-term consumption of vegetable oils (omega-6) and other processed foods.
Knobbe explains the complex process in his presentation, describing how omega-6 fatty acids in this diet induce nutrient deficiencies and causes “a catastrophic lipid peroxidation cascade.”
This damages a phospholipid called cardio lipid in the mitochondrial membranes.
“And this leads to electron transport chain failure … which causes mitochondrial failure and dysfunction.”
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells and provide most of the chemical energy needed for your cells’ biochemical reactions. When they malfunction, they can create reactive oxygen species, warns Knobbe. These substances are highly reactive chemical molecules, also called free radicals, that wreak havoc in your body.
These free radicals then feed back into peroxidation cascades, which is when those free radicals “steal” electrons from the lipids in cell membranes and start a chain reaction that damages the cell. Lipids are the main constituents of your cells.
“So, you’re filling up your fat cells and your mitochondrial membranes with omega-6, and these are going to peroxidize because of the fact that they are polyunsaturated.”
“All right, the next thing that happens is insulin resistance, which leads to metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. When the mitochondria fail, you get reduced fatty acid and beta oxidation, meaning you can’t burn these fats properly for fuel.”
If you can’t burn fats for fuel, you have to depend on carbohydrates solely. That leaves you feeling tired and gaining weight, warns Knobbe.
“This is a powerful mechanism for obesity,” he says.
“So, the energy failure at the cellular level leads to nuclear mitochondrial DNA mutations, and this leads to cancers. Three weeks on a high-PUFA diet causes heart failure in rats—three weeks.”
This process also leads to a defective form of apoptosis, which is normally the healthy process of cell death, and necrosis, which is cell death due to traumatic injury, warns Knobbe.
“And of course, that’s how you get disorders like AMD and Alzheimer’s.”
Knobbe has also been studying the toxic aldehydes that result from omega-6 fats. When you consume an omega-6 fat, it first reacts with a hydroxyl radical or peroxide radical, producing a lipid hydroperoxide.
This lipid hydroperoxide then rapidly degenerates into toxic aldehydes, of which there are hundreds, which in turn lead to cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, mutagenicity carcinogenicity, and more, along with being obesogenic, at very low doses.
Ancestral Diet Key to AMD Prevention
According to Knobbe, there were only 50 cases of dietary blindness described across the globe between 1851 and 1930, some of which were likely other diseases. This skyrocketed to an estimated 196 million cases in 2020. Dr. Knobbe believes that by following an ancestral diet, rich in grass-fed meat and poultry, pastured dairy, wild-caught fish, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, the majority of AMD cases would disappear.
“Could modernized processed foods drive this disease? That’s the question. I mean, is it as simple as this, you know, could this difference be due to diet and diet alone?” Knobbe asked. “I will submit to you that everything I have found so far indicates that it is, and I can’t find anything that doesn’t support this concept.”
For more details, Knobbe discusses more of this eye-opening information in his book, “Ancestral Dietary Strategy to Prevent and Treat Macular Degeneration,” as well as via his website, on CureAMD.org.
Knobbe doesn’t profit from his book or his work with Cure AMD. The information he is trying to get out could turn the tide on the disease he sees so often.
“Today, about 534 people will go blind due to AMD. They’ve already lost vision in their first eye. They’ll lose vision in their second eye. And I think this is a travesty because I believe it’s all preventable. So, our mission at Cure AMD Foundation is to prevent and treat AMD through ancestral dietary strategy advocacy. And we need more scientific research in order to convince all of us and our peers.”
A Strategy To Implement
It is vital that you reduce your intake of industrially processed seed oils as much as you can. This means eliminating all of the following oils: soy, corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, peanut. Olive and avocado oil should also be on the list as more than 80 percent of these are adulterated. But even if they weren’t, it simply isn’t worth it to have high levels of olive oil as it is loaded with the omega-6 fat called linoleic acid.
It will also be important to avoid nearly all processed foods as it is the rare processed food that doesn’t include these toxic oils. Nearly every fast food restaurant is also guilty of using high levels of these toxic fats. This is why it is so important to prepare as much of your food as you can in your home so you can know what you are eating.
Most health “experts,” including many I have previously interviewed, simply don’t understand how much more dangerous these oils are than sugar. These fats become embedded in your cell membranes and stay there for years wreaking havoc on your health.
This is one of the reasons why a high fat diet can be harmful. If it is loaded with these dangerous omega-6 fats, it will make you metabolically unhealthy and radically increase your risk for nearly every chronic degenerative disease, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and blindness.
Dr. Joseph Mercola is the founder of Mercola.com. An osteopathic physician, best-selling author, and recipient of multiple awards in the field of natural health, his primary vision is to change the modern health paradigm by providing people with a valuable resource to help them take control of their health. This article was originally published on Mercola.com, please visit for study links.