Eating for eye health can be beneficial

Carrots get all the attention for eye health, but there are several other foods and nutrients that can help.

Eating healthy can affect more than what the scale says. According to experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), it is possible to aid eye health through nutrition and supplements.

nycu_eye_health_sResearch by the National Eye Institute (NEI) has shown that high levels of antioxidants and zinc, in the form of a nutritional supplement tablet, reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

“AMD is the leading cause of blindness in older adults,” said Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Ophthalmology. “These dietary supplements are not a cure for AMD, but they do reduce one’s risk of progressing to the most serious form of the disease.”

UAB School of Optometry Professor Leo Semes, O.D., talked about the importance of diet to eye health.

“You are what you eat; it’s trite but it’s true,” Semes said. “It’s been shown that certain habits like eating a high-fat diet are associated with, but not causative, in AMD.”

One food that has long been connected with improving vision is carrots, but Semes said carrots alone will not accomplish significant gains in eye health.

“The basis for this belief is that carrots are high in beta-carotene,” Semes said. “But beta-carotene alone is not going to be protective enough. There’s also a tangential relationship that a lack of vitamin-A, a cousin of beta-carotene, is implicated in poor darkness adaptation.”

Seeing well when moving from light to dark declines with age.

Semes serves on the American Optometric Association Health and Nutrition Committee, which developed a list of specific foods and nutrients that have been found to be beneficial to eye health.

  • Fruits and vegetables – Vitamin C can help minimize cataracts and AMD
  • Fleshy fish (tuna or salmon) and lean meats – Fatty acids protect against AMD
  • Red meats and whole grains – Zinc deficiency can lead to cataracts
  • Vegetable oil – Vitamin E can slow progression of AMD

Semes suggested a consultation with an optometrist for evaluation of any ophthalmic problems so possible solutions can be reviewed.

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