Eye health: Nutritionist reveals foods that protect your eyes
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Although age spares no mercy on the eyes, getting older is not the only cause of vision loss. Worryingly, your diet plays a role in processes that lead to blindness, according to an expert. Fortunately, switching up your food choices could offer a protective effect.
Whether you reach for a slice of white bread first thing in the morning or pop open a fizzy drink to battle the midday slump, the staples of a Western diet seem to be seamlessly making their way into our lives on a daily basis.
While all of these snacks and foods represent a perfect and fast treat during a busy day, they could be taxing on your vision.
Khuram Sarwar, an optician at Feel Good Contacts, warned that enjoying one too many staples of the popular diet could spur on blindness.
Sarwar said: “Excessive amounts of highly sweetened foods and refined carbohydrates (typically appearing in the Western diet) can cause vision loss.
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“Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta as well as highly sweetened foods, such as ketchup and fizzy drinks, are digested rapidly which causes an increase in blood sugar.
“This blood sugar increase can lead to the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which is when damage is caused to the retina.
“AMD causes blindness in the central field of vision and can eventually lead to total blindness.”
Fortunately, AMD doesn’t lead straight to vision loss without ringing alarm bells.
According to the NHS, one of the first signs of this condition is difficulty reading, watching TV, driving or recognising faces.
Other tell-tale signs of age-related macular degeneration include:
- Seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
- Objects looking smaller than normal
- Colours seeming less bright than they used to
- Seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).
The health service recommends seeing an optician if you experience any problems with your eyesight.
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What’s more, you don’t only need to take the optician’s word for it as a study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, also shared that consumption of a Western pattern diet may be a risk factor for the development of AMD.
While AMD tends to start targeting people in their 50s and 60s, Sarwar warned that the blood sugar spike stirred up by a rich Western diet can also lead to vision loss much sooner.
The optician said: “Too many blood sugar spikes can cause type 2 diabetes. Those with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy which can cause problems with your eyes.
“The longer blood sugar remains uncontrolled in diabetic people, the more chance they have of developing issues with their eyes.”
Untreated diabetes can trigger a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, which is considered the leading cause of blindness in working adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sarwar added: “Other typical parts of the Western diet include processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, ham and deli meats. These processed meats contain a lot of salt.
“Excess salt (as well as caffeine) in the diet can contribute to high blood pressure. Hypertensive retinopathy can result from high blood pressure and cause damaged blood vessels in the retina.”
That’s why the expert recommended sticking to a healthy diet packed with fruits, veggies, nuts and legumes as many of these foods can help keep your eyes healthy.
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