Seeing is Believing! Food Choices Can Protect Your Vision

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Seems like almost every time I have lunch with friends who are middle-age, our conversation turns to changes in our eyesight. Often the discussion is sparked as someone scrambles for reading glasses in order to make out the fine type on the menu. Or we might be having difficulty trying to read a board of lunch specials located across the room.

    But perhaps what we should be focusing on is what foods we should eat to help protect our eyesight. In fact, several studies are showing that specific foods can help you combat age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

    First of all, let’s discuss what these eye problems are.

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    • Age-related macular degeneration is a disease associated with aging. Age-related macular disease is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans who are 60 years old and above. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), this disease gradually destroys sharp, central vision that is needed for clearly seeing objects and completing tasks such as reading and driving. This disease affects the macula, which is the part of the eye that helps you see fine detail. The progression of the disease varies from person to person, with some people noticing little change in their vision, while others find the disease progresses faster and leads to loss of vision in both eyes.c

    • Cataract is the clouding of the lens, which affects vision. The NEI reports that by age 80, more than 50% of all Americans have had a cataract; many of these have surgery to remove this clouding.

    So what should you be eating to protect your vision? NIH Medline Plus, a publication of The National Institutes of Health and the Friends of the National Library of Medicine, reported that researchers are are continuing to test the effects of lutein/zeaxanthin (found in vegetables) and the fatty acids DHA and EPA (found in fish) to see if they’ll make a difference in people’s vision. “From earlier studies, NEI researchers knew that adults eating kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and raw or cooked spinach (vegetables high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two anti-oxidants from the same family as beta carotene), were at considerably less risk of developing advanced AMD than those who didn’t,” the NIH MedlinePlus publication reported. “And adults consuming more sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA (found in fish, especially salmon) also appeared to be at less risk.”

    This study is following up on several earlier studies. In 1992, the National Eye Institute started a national clinical trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The study found that an experimental combination of three anti-oxidant vitamins (C, E and beta carotene) as well as the minerals zinc and copper lowered the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration by 25% and the risk of moderate vision loss by 19%.


    The World’s Healthiest Foods website, which is run by the non-profit George Mateljan Foundation, lists the following specific foods to eat to support your vision health:

    • Rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include eggs, kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, corn, garden peas and Brussels sprouts.

    • Eating fish more than meat most of the week provides significant protection.

    • The brassica family of vegetables -- broccoli, cabbage, kale and mustard greens -- provide anti-oxidants to protect the eyes.

    • Eating three or more servings of fruit daily may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration. Look for fruits, such as berries, that contain flavonoid phytonutrients, which serve as antioxidants and also support capillaries that bring blood to the eyes.

    Add these foods to your diet and you’ll have shown good foresight in protecting your eyesight!

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Published On: March 02, 2012