Eating your vegetables may turn out to have greater benefits than once thought. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston recently found that the more nitrates in your diet, the lower your risk for primary open-angle glaucoma.
Nitrates come from a variety of food sources, including green leafy vegetables like celery, kale, mustard, and spinach, and root vegetables such as beets. Dietary nitrates are a source of nitric oxide, which your body uses to regulate blood flow.
Problems with blood flow to the optic nerve are associated with the onset of primary open-angle glaucoma. If untreated, glaucoma can lead to both peripheral and central vision loss.
The researchers gathered dietary data over a 25-year span from participants in two long-term health studies—the Nurses Health Study with more than 63,000 women and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study with more than 41,000 men. Over 25 years, researchers identified 1,483 new cases of primary open-angle glaucoma.
The data showed that subjects who consumed the greatest amount of nitrates and green leafy vegetables had up to a 30 percent lower risk for primary open-angle glaucoma and up to a 50 percent lower risk of early central vision loss.
Consuming specific vegetables such as kale offered even greater protection.
More studies are needed to confirm the results and explain the processes involved. But there are many health benefits that come with increasing the amount and variety of vegetables in your diet.
Source: JAMA Ophthalmology, published online Jan. 14, 2016