And not only that, there are studies that suggest that certain foods can even stop the deterioration once it has begun.
Foods that may protect and improve your eyesight
In a recent article from the BBC, Dr. Michael Mosley talks about his own problems of vision and his personal experience through the nutritional therapy featured in an episode of the program “Trust me, I’m a doctor“.
The shape and the length of the eyeballs and the thickness of the lens of the eye, can affect your ability to see things up close and at a distance. The retina, located at the back of the eye, also contains cells sensitive to light that are important for good vision.
The macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision, is protected by a yellow pigment composed of lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin. These compounds absorb the light and protect the macula from blue light and ultraviolet light (UV) from the sun and other light sources.
Lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin are plant compounds with powerful antioxidant capabilities. Our body can not create them by itself, so we must obtain them through our diet.
“Lutein and zeaxanthin are commonly found in vegetables such as kale, spinach, bell peppers, corn, and saffron. Meso-zeaxanthin is generally not found in plants; it is thought that occurs in our body from lutein (although it is also present in some fish…)
Supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin can make a big difference
During his passage through the program, Mosley underwent a series of vision tests designed to assess the health of his retina, his ability to see colors, night vision and the level of protection that the macula had against UV rays and blue light.
“The results of my exams were fascinating and depressing. My detection of colors blue and yellow was extremely poor.”
“My night vision and the perception of the details were also low for my age. The medical team of the program and gave me a supply of pills supplements for 90 days that was supposed to help.”
The supplements in question contained lutein and zeaxanthin. Three months later, the tests showed a remarkable improvement. Not only improved night vision and the protective macula pigments but that perception of the color blue and yellow was now within the normal range.
Some studies suggest that these nutrients may also slow or prevent macular degeneration related to age (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, followed by cataracts.
How much lutein and zeaxanthin do you need?
Studies have found the consumption of a dose of 10 milligrams of lutein per day, and 2 mg of zeaxanthin per day to be beneficial.
“Then should we take supplements to protect and even improve our eyesight? Well, the research certainly shows that supplements work,” wrote Mosley.
“Even for someone like me, who have a relatively healthy diet, I found the supplements to be beneficial. Even so, there are researchers who argue that supplementation is not necessary if we eat the right foods.”
What foods do you have to eat to get lutein?
Among the foods rich in lutein are found in order of wealth: Kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, corn, broccoli, romaine lettuce, green beans, papaya, egg, and orange.
Most of these also contain zeaxanthin, although in smaller amounts than lutein. Ideally, you should try to consume these foods as raw as possible.
Once spinach or egg yolks, for example, are cooked the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged and not work as well in preventing degeneration of the macula.
The importance of vitamin C
It has also been shown that a higher intake of vitamin C prevents cataracts, the second leading cause of vision loss. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of Americans suffer from cataract when they reach the age of 80.
A study that compared the vitamin C intake and progression of cataracts in more than 320 pairs of twin sisters during a decade found that those who ate more foods rich in vitamin C, reduced the risk of cataracts by a third. Interestingly, vitamin C supplements were not associated with a reduction in risk.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are well known for their high content of vitamin C, but the fruit with the highest concentration of all is actually the acerola cherry (also known as West Indian cherry).
The Omega-3 fatty acids of animal origin reduce the risk of blindness in diabetics
Another recent study found that diabetics who consumed 500 mg of fish rich in omega-3 regularly (two servings per week) reduced the risk of diabetic retinopathy in an impressive 48%.
Diabetic retinopathy is a serious complication or side effect of type 2 diabetes that happens when it reduces the flow of blood to the retina. It is the most common cause of blindness in diabetics.
This significant risk reduction was mainly attributed to lower levels of inflammation. The omega-3 fats of animal origin also provide structural support to cell membranes that improve eye health and protect retinal function.
Previous research has shown that those with an intake high in omega-3 fats of animal origin decreased by 60% the chances of suffering from advanced AMD compared with those who consumed less.
Among the foods richest in omega-3 of animal origin are the marine products raised in the wild, which means that you have to take into account the levels of contamination by mercury. Marine sources that are high in omega-3 and low in environmental contaminants include:
- Wild salmon from Alaska (which also contains astaxanthin, one of the most powerful promoters of eye health).
- Small bluefish and cold-water fish such as herring, sardines, and anchovies.
- Roe of fish.
- Oil from krill.
Astaxanthin: the promoter-most powerful eye health
Astaxanthin is produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. In addition to the microalgae, the only other source is the sea creatures that consume them such as the salmon, shellfish, and krill.
Astaxanthin is an antioxidant much more powerful than lutein and zeaxanthin, and many researchers believe it is the most powerful antioxidant ever discovered for eye health.
It has been found that it is beneficial against several problems related to the eyes, including the two leading causes of blindness in the elderly: AMD and cataracts.
The anthocyanins of the berries benefit your eyes
Berries that are dark blue or purple, almost black in colors, such as black currants and blueberries, contain high amounts of anthocyanins.
Research suggests that bilberry may be particularly useful for inhibiting or reversing macular degeneration. According to the experts: “The long-term supplementation with the extract of blueberry is effective in the prevention of macular degeneration and cataract”.
Even more important: avoid artificial blue light
The full extent of the benefits associated with avoiding the incidence of the blue light is just beginning to be understood.
Sunglasses that block blue light have the benefit of making objects appear crisper, but the research suggests that block blue light also has an important biological purpose to regulate the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), which controls sleep patterns and other bodily functions.
One of the most simple and least expensive ways of protecting our circadian rhythm and, therefore, to ensure a healthy sleep and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, is to use amber colored glasses to block blue light, not only at night, but at any time that it is exposed to fluorescent lights or LED’s.
This is because LEDs and cfls, although they are much more efficient from the energy point of view, are not sources of light-thermal analog, but digital. Have an imbalanced wavelength that is very different from the sun.
Predominate frequencies in blue, which contribute to the production of free radicals and lack of frequencies that stimulates the repair and regeneration present in the sources of thermal light, as the incandescent bulbs transparent.
These light bulbs have a pattern of a similar wavelength to the sun but do not have the frequencies of blue and violet, which can be harmful to the circadian rhythm and the melatonin during the night.
So an incandescent light bulb clearly is the best option that you can use for your eyes. Although you will use more energy, the health benefits far outweigh the payment for extra energy.
Optimize your vision by eating well and living healthy
In addition to eating foods rich in carotenoids, omega-3, and astaxanthin, in your diet, it is really important to regulate the level of sugar in the blood since the excess sugar in the blood can pull fluid from the lens of the eye, a fact that impairs its ability to focus. You can also damage the blood vessels of the retina, thereby obstructing the blood flow.
To maintain the level of blood sugar in a healthy range avoid processed foods. In addition to being full of hidden sugars, processed foods are also a source of trans fats, which have an adverse effect on the health of your eyes. Trans fat may contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in the body.
Also, avoid the artificial sweeteners, since vision problems are actually one of the many potential symptoms of acute poisoning by aspartame.