These days with the vast amount of ‘tailored’ information being thrown at us through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not. When it comes to your eye health it’s important for everyone to do their due diligence and know when a claim is false.
Does what you put in your mouth really affect your eye health? We will explore this topic in this week’s blog post. It’s a juicy one – enjoy!
To help put things into perspective let’s look at either ends of the spectrum. Let’s say person A, Sally is someone who enjoys eating out, particularly fast food and thus ends up eating a lot of salt, refined carbs, and sugar. Furthermore, she rarely ever eats whole foods like fruits, veggies, complex carbs, and/or lean protein.
Let’s say person B, Bob is someone who fully enjoys a healthy lifestyle. He consumes fresh fruits and veggies daily. He also limits his salt and sugar intake and makes a great effort to include lean meats like fish into his diet. He only likes to eat complex whole carbohydrates.
So the question is will Sally’s eyes be affected negatively because of her diet? Furthermore, will Bob’s eyes be protected due to his efforts? Let’s find out.
How Nutrients Feed Our Eyes
Many foods provide vital nutrients for our eyes. For example, carrots are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by the liver. This vitamin helps to protect the eye’s retina and cornea among other parts of the eye. A severe lack of vitamin A can cause night vision blindness and dry eyes. Other foods which we have highlighted in previous blogs that can help aid the eyes include leafy greens and citrus fruits which are high in vitamin C; an important vitamin that helps maintain and grow eye tissue and collagen. The eye requires a whole host of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to help it protect against diseases like age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts.
So it is clear that the eye does use nutrients in order to stay healthy. But what if a person’s diet is severely lacking these?
Eye Health – It’s All Connected
Someone like Sally, who lives an unhealthy lifestyle rich in processed foods is increasing her chances of being deficient in one or all of the necessary nutrients needed for her eyes to stay healthy. However, she is also increasing her risks of developing other issues like high cholesterol, and diabetes, which can, in turn, affect the eyes (and not to mention other parts of the body). It’s all connected. For example, someone with diabetes has a higher chance of developing glaucoma and cataracts than someone without diabetes.
To help illustrate how deficiencies affect the eyes lets delve into some findings. Food deficiencies were tested and published in an article called “Effects of Nutritional Deficiency on Visual Acuity”. The study specifically focuses on school-aged children and testing their visual acuity. In it students were given a visual acuity test, which revealed the following:
“Statistical analysis showed a clear association between the scores of protein and vegetables intake with visual acuity. Diet poor in proteins, fruits and vegetables led to poor visual acuity in the subjects. Carbohydrate diet had no influence on visual acuity.”
Although this is just one study and therefore it has limitations, it should be noted that nutrients or the lack thereof can affect vision negatively. In this case study, only visual acuity was examined, but overall eye health is something to be concerned about as well when it comes to our diet. The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website states the effects of vitamin A deficiency on vision:
“Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind every year because of vitamin A deficiency. Half of these children die within a year of losing their sight.”
Food is more than just something we put in our mouths and bellies to feel full, it feeds our eyes, as well as other parts of the body. The food we chose to eat can affect our vision, particularly in children. Does this mean that eating healthy will help restore a blind person’s vision? No. But eating a well-balanced diet can at the very least ensure that you are doing your part to give your eyes the proper nutrients it needs to maintain healthy eyes. On the other hand, eating an unbalanced diet consistently is sure to affect your body in one way or another, which can ultimately affect your irreplaceable eyes. So whether your diet is like person A or B, it’s clear that food affects your eyes.
We are Victoria, BC’s local family eye care centre.