Julie Mares, PhD
Position title: Professor, Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
Phone: (608) 262-8044
610 Walnut St.
Madison, WI 53726
PhD 1987, Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison
MSPH 1980, University of Illinois, School of Public Health- Chicago
BS 1976, University of Illinois- Champaign-Urbana
The primary goal of Julie Mares’ research program is to evaluate relationships of diet and nutritional status to the onset and progression of common age-related eye diseases of age-related cataract, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. She conducts studies in large population groups using epidemiological techniques in which diets or bioindicators that reflect nutritional status are compared in people in whom these conditions are absent and those in whom various stages of these conditions are present. Results across studies in several different populations helps to understand the likelihood that certain changes in dietary practices or lifestyle could influence the development of these conditions, which are becoming increasingly common as the population ages.
Dr. Mares’ lab evaluates many interrelated aspects of diet. In some studies, they use a non-invasive flicker photometry test to evaluate levels of plant pigments (the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin) that accumulate in eye tissues and comprise macular pigment. They study the aspects of diet, health and lifestyle that are related to higher levels of these eye carotenoids and estimate the relationships of higher levels of these pigments to the occurrence of cataracts and macular degeneration.
The lab also measures blood levels of carotenoids, vitamin E and vitamin D to study relationships to age-related eye diseases. They collect extensive information about foods eaten and supplements taken to evaluate associations with single attributes of diet and the broader aspects of diet and lifestyle that these represent. They also directly evaluate broader diet patterns that reflect adherence to US Dietary Guidelines and other eating patterns that have been associated with lower risk of chronic disease (such as the Mediterranean diet pattern).
Ultimately, the lab’s research findings are translated into practical recommendations for healthy living at any age, to maximize eye health in one’s later years, in ways that are compatible with overall health of individuals and the communities in which we live.
PubMed Listing of Publications