Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eat Right to Help Eye Health

Our goal at Baltimore Washington Eye Center is to help preserve and protect eye health and vision. Most of us are aware that our diet is important in keeping our heart and arteries healthy. So it should come as no surprise that eating right can also potentially be beneficial for our eyes. "Eye health and vision depend on the tiny blood vessels in the retina and other parts of the eye carrying nutrients and oxygen to the tissue-especially in the retina", relayed Arturo Betancourt, M.D., Baltimore Washington Eye Center Medical Director . "Keeping those blood vessels healthy is an important part of preserving vision as we age. As part of an overall healthy diet, several key nutrients appear to be particularly important to preserving sight as we get older", said Corneal Specialist Brad Spagnolo, M.D.

Vitamin C, Vitamin E & Zinc
About 10 years ago the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) reported that people given vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, and zinc in supplements were less likely to develop advanced age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. The combination was most effective at slowing the progression from intermediate to advanced AMD, which is one of the leading causes of age-related blindness. Because of those findings, many people diagnosed with early signs of AMD today are routinely prescribed a pill that combines these nutrients. You may or may not benefit from this depending on your overall health and eye condition. PATIENTS SHOULD NOT BEGIN TAKING SUPPLEMENTS WITHOUT FIRST DISCUSSING IT WITH THEIR EYE DOCTOR AND INTERNIST OR FAMILY PHYSICIAN.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Two other nutrients -- lutein and zeaxanthin -- are also linked to lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. A 2008 Tufts University study of 1,802 women 50 to 79 years old found that those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets were 23% less likely to develop cataracts than those who consumed the least. Rich sources of these two compounds include kale, spinach, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid
The newest nutrient linked to better vision with age is omega-3 fatty acid, which is found predominantly in fish oil. In a study of 2,520 people, researchers at Johns Hopkins University reported in 2010 that people who consumed fish high in omega-3s fatty acids often were significantly less likely to have advanced age-related macular degeneration. Omega-3s may also protect against cataracts, according to 2010 findings by researchers at the Clinical University of Navarra in Spain. Researchers don’t understand exactly why omega-3s may protect against eye diseases. One guess is that these healthy oils may reduce inflammation and thereby protect against cell damage.

Pills vs. Food
Although antioxidant supplements are routinely prescribed to people with early signs of macular degeneration, there’s little agreement on whether supplements will help otherwise healthy people preserve their vision. Most of the evidence to date is very mixed. In one recent study, for example, a multivitamin seemed to protect against some forms of cataracts but actually raise the risk of other forms. PATIENTS SHOULD NOT BEGIN TAKING SUPPLEMENTS WITHOUT FIRST DISCUSSING IT WITH THEIR EYE DOCTOR AND INTERNIST OR FAMILY PHYSICIAN.

Nonetheless, the best way to protect your vision from age-related diseases is by eating a healthy diet. Healthy food choices are good choices. The results of a 2010 study by French scientists found eating more vegetables -- including cabbage, broccoli, pepper, corn, or spinach -- improved the condition of the retina in people with age-related macular degeneration.
Should you have questions or need more information about nutrition, diet and how they impact your eye health and vision, please feel free to ask any Baltimore Washington Eye Center eye doctor including Drs. Betancourt, Spagnolo, Richa and Strier. They are always happy to answer your questions.