Preventing Blindness with Nutrition

Eating for Eye Health

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, over 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only 50% know it. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve. If untreated, glaucoma gradually evolves into irreversible vision loss, and is the second leading cause of blindness. Research continues to show that nutrition can play an extremely protective role in the prevention and treatment of the disease. 

Woman brown eye with long eyelashes

The Role of Free Radicals in Progressive Glaucoma

Normal body processes produce free radicals, and, for the most part, our bodies are designed to protect against damage inflicted by these unstable molecules. But, we also come into contact with many more free radicals than nature intended due to environmental pollution and toxins, such as those from tobacco smoke and radiation.

Our bodies do not have the protective defenses to shield against such an onslaught of free radicals. Free radicals steal electrons from healthy molecules, such as optic nerve cells, and glaucoma patients are most susceptible to attack. Resulting oxidative damage makes glaucomatous optic nerve damage even worse.

How Antioxidants Help

Antioxidants graciously lend their extra electrons to free radicals so that free radicals stop their scavenging rampage. In this way, antioxidants help protect against progressive glaucoma. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are high in carotenoids, vitamins, and minerals that enhance vision health and reduce glaucoma risk.

For vitamins C, E and A, as well as essential minerals, eat:

  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Peaches
  • Radishes
  • Green beans
  • Beets

Dark leafy greens are high in vision-promoting lutein. For an added polyphenol boost and mineral magic, eat:

  • Pomegranates
  • Acai berries
  • Cranberries
  • Bilberries
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black and green tea
  • Lycopene from tomato products
  • Flax seeds

The amount of food you eat has proven influential on vision health as well. Too little or too much food is associated with additional vision problems, including dry eye, vascular occlusive disease, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and cataract formation.

carrots_mediumTo keep your eyes healthy and clear, experts recommend eating a balanced diet, being physically active, and getting enough sleep. Dr. Amish Doshi of the Glaucoma Research Foundation also suggests supplementing with a premium multivitamin/mineral to shore up any nutritional deficiencies, but always under the guidance of your doctor.