nutrition and eye health


nutrition and eye health

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Saving Your Sight: Was Your Mother Right About Carrots?

It’s the same story we’ve all heard before.  Eat well, exercise, don’t smoke, and take your vitamins. More than half of all Americans do take a nutritional supplement daily. But do they improve general health and could they help preserve our precious gift of sight? Which ones are the most effective?

More and more evidence from recent scientific studies lend support to the role of herbal and natural nutritional supplements and other ways to protect your vision for a lifetime.

According to a study by the National Eye Institute, Americans fear blindness more than any other disability (including cancer and heart disease).  More than 3.5 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from some degree of vision loss and the chances of developing eye problems increase dramatically with age. So what can people do to protect reduce their risk of vision loss?

Starting in middle age and becoming increasingly more common over time, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) are the top two causes of vision loss. Nearly 20 million Americans over 40 have some cataract and 2 million Americans have lost vision to macular degeneration.



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When the natural human lens inside the eye develops cloudiness that affects vision, this is called a cataract.  With time, the color of the natural human lens in the eye becomes yellowish or brown causing vision to gradually worsen. Symptoms may include blurriness, lack of contrast or sharpness, and night glare. Color vision may change, making it more difficult to identify purple or blue colors.

Diet and Cataracts

There doesn’t appear to be a good way to stop getting older but there are things you can do that may reduce your risk of developing cataracts.  Research suggests that lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet along with other antioxidants may reduce the risk of developing cataract. Lutein, an anti-oxidant that may reduce age-related damage, is from the Latin meaning “yellow” and is found in green leafy vegetable such as spinach and kale.  Eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing carbohydrates may help along with daily vitamin C.

Smoking cigarettes, excessive UV exposure from the sun along with diet, and other environmental issues can have a role in the development of cataracts.  


Macular Degeneration (AMD)

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Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people aged 60 and older in the United States.  Read more about AMD here.

What are the risks factors for AMD?

1.  Age – 60 and over.

2.  Family history of macular degeneration.  

3.  Race: Macular degeneration is more common in whites than in other groups

4.  Sex:  Women are more likely than men to develop macular degeneration

5.  Smoking doubles your risk of macular degeneration.

6.  Obesity

7.  Light colored eyes    

8.  Exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays  

9.  Lack of nutrients such as zinc, antioxidants (vitamins A, C, & E and lutein)

10.  High blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and heart disease

Reducing your Risk of Developing Macular Degeneration

1.  Annual eye examinations are crucial in assessment your risk and early intervention.

2.  A low fat diet with five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily may reduce your risk.

3.  Eat plenty of leafy greens, other vegetables, and fruits containing antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin found in spinach, corn, and egg yokes.

4.  Eat more fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can reduce your risk of macular degeneration according to a study published in July 2006.   Vitamin D may also play a role.  

5.  Do not smoke.

6.  Wear sunglasses with proper UVA and UVB protection, during all times of the year.

7.  Maintain a normal healthy blood pressure.

If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration:

1.  Maintain proper follow up care with your eye doctor.

2.  Test your own vision at home daily using an Amsler Grid.

3.  Daily supplement intake under the AREDS2 guidelines.

The first Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS)

The first AREDS showed that a daily supplement of 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 International Units of vitamin E, 15 mg of -carotene (vitamin A up to 25,000 International Units), 80 mg zinc, and 2 mg of copper reduced the risk of progressing to moderate or severe vision loss by up to 25%.

The subsequent Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2),

The second AREDS investigators found no overall additional benefit from adding omega-3 fatty acids and/or lutein and zeaxanthin to the original formula. Importantly, however, an 18% reduced risk of developing advanced AMD was seen for those who received a beta-carotene free version of the AREDS formula plus lutein (10 mg) and zeaxanthin (2 mg).  Therefore, the

AREDS2 formulation has removed -carotene and added lutein (10 mg) and zeaxanthin (2 mg).

4.  Antioxidants may prevent cataracts and macular degeneration

5.  Vitamin C may prevent cataracts                                    

6.  Vitamin E may prevent macular degeneration

7.  Zinc may prevent and treat macular degeneration

8.  Vitamin D may help prevent AMD