Eye health: How what we eat can affect our eyes as we age
Did you know that what you eat can help with your eye health? It isn’t just a myth that carrots can help you see in the dark!
Cataracts happen because of oxidative damage to the eyes which makes the lens slowly become opaque. People who eat a diet rich in anti-oxidants are at much lower risk of developing cataracts and there is some evidence that increasing dietary intake can slow down their progress (4).
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the most important – they are derived from green leafy vegetables such as kale and yellow or orange vegetables, such as peppers and from egg yolks.
Glutathione is another important one. It should be found in large amounts in the eye and helps keep the lens healthy. It can be found in garlic, onion, cruciferous vegetables and in whey protein.
Vitamin D levels are also important to help prevent cataracts. Low levels of vitamin D were associated with more cataracts in a study from Korea (2). As vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the Northern hemisphere because of lack of sunlight, it may be worth getting your levels tested and taking a supplement if necessary.
Vitamin C can also halt cataract progression and even reverse progress. It is found in abundant quantities in fruit and vegetables but some targeted supplementation may help (5).
Macular degeneration (AMD) is again found more in people with a diet low in antioxidants, so all the things that are good for cataracts may also be useful for AMD.
In addition, essential fatty acids are really important for healthy eye tissue and good intakes of DHA (found in fish oil) may prevent or delay the development of AMD (3).
Diabetes-related eye damage:
High blood sugar levels may start to affect the eyes in people with type 2 diabetes by damaging small blood vessels in the retina. It is really important to monitor blood sugar and keep it level. Keeping sugar intake to an absolute minimum is essential. Again, antioxidants such as vitamin A (made from beta-carotenes in carrots and other vegetables) can help prevent damage (1).
There is significant evidence that diet can influence eye health as we age. If you are concerned about your eye health, it may worth consulting a nutritional therapist to help you make real and lasting dietary changes.
1. Chous et al. (2016). The diabetes visual function supplement study (DiVFuSS). British Journal of Ophthalmology, 100(2), 227-234.
2. Jee, D. and Kim, E. C. (2015). Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and age-related cataracts. Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery,41(8), 1705-1715.
3. Johnson, E. J. and Schaefer, E. J. (2006). Potential role of dietary n− 3 fatty acids in the prevention of dementia and macular degeneration. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 83(6), S1494-1498S.
4. Maci, S. and Santos, R. (2015). The beneficial role of lutein and zeaxanthin in cataracts. Nutrafoods, 14(2), 63-69.
5. Robertson, J. M., Donner, A. P. and Trevithick, J. R. (1991). A possible role for vitamins C and E in cataract prevention. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 53(1), 346S-351S.