Nutrition's Potential to Save Sight
While "20/20 vision" is a symbol of visual acuity, between now and the year 2020, more and more people will experience some extent of vision loss. Ongoing studies continue to demonstrate the protective effect of certain nutrients and diet choices.
In the next 10 years, millions of U.S. residents aged 40 and older are projected to experience some measure of vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataract, and/or diabetes-related vision damage. According to the National Eye Institute, this is due largely to the aging of the U.S. population.
Now, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research are finding that healthy eating can reduce the decline of quality of life due to these diseases.
One study indicated that regularly consuming a combination of protective nutrients and a low-glycemic-index, or "slow carb," diet provided a protective effect against macular degeneration. (The macula is a 3-millimeter-wide yellow spot near the center of the retina responsible for the central field of vision.) A food's glycemic index is an indicator of how fast the carbohydrate it contains will spike blood sugar levels. "Slow carb" foods include whole-grain versions of bread, rice and pasta. "Fast carb" foods include white bread, white rice, sugars and corn syrup.
For the study, the researchers analyzed dietary intake and other data from more than 4,000 men and women, aged 55 to 80, who had participated in the long-term "Age-Related Eye Disease Study." Researchers ranked intake of each of several nutrients consumed during the study, then calculated a compound score to gauge their combined dietary effect on the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The scoring system allowed them to evaluate associations between individual—and combined—dietary nutrients.
The nutrients that were found to be most protective in combination with the low-glycemic-index diet were vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. The Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research is part of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study is funded by the National Eye Institute.
The National Eye Institute offers information about age-related macular degeneration (AMD), including “Frequently Asked Questions” about vision-protecting vitamin supplements.
This article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Talk to your eye care professional about protective supplements and other vision concerns you may have.
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