By Dr S.S. Gill
Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about NUTRITION.
A question many people ask doctors is whether nutrition and vitamins do play a part in maintaining healthy eyes. The answer in a nutshell is, “Yes, your eyes do in some ways reflect what you eat!” Good nutrition is important for eye health and of course for general health too. Good nutrition not only help our eyes function well but also help protect the eyes from certain diseases.
DEFICIENCIES THAT CAN BLIND
A typical example of how nutrition plays a vital part in the health of our eyes is a childhood condition leading to blindness called xerophthalmia. This condition is due to a lack of vitamin A in the diet and is commonly seen in developing countries.
Our bodies constantly react with the oxygen in our environment. Due to this activity, humans produce tiny molecules called free radicals. These free radicals affect our cells, sometimes damaging them. This is called oxidative stress and it plays a role in how macular degeneration develops. Amongst the more important ones are the anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins can be found in many different sources of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, carrots and green leafy vegetables.
CAROTENOIDS – Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Studies have shown that two types of carotenoids called Lutein and Zeaxanthin are essential for eye health. In the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) of 4757 patients, it showed that those who had a higher intake of Lutein with Zeaxanthin in their diet had less incidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). These carotenoids keep the eyes safe from oxidative stress especially from the exposure to blue light (high energy photons). Lutein has also been shown to improve retinal sensitivity. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found naturally in vegetables, fruits, yellow peppers, mango, bilberries, spinach and broccoli.
A good balanced diet that includes sufficient fresh fruits and vegetables is therefore essential. However, if you feel that your diet lacks adequate vitamins and minerals, you might want to consider taking a supplement for general and eye health when:
- your diet does not include enough fresh fruit and vegetables.
- it is hard to obtain or prepare fresh fruit and vegetables.
- you have been told to take a vitamin supplement by your eye doctor.
- Eat a good, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Take multivitamin supplements with carotenoids if needed.
- Stop smoking – cigarette smoke contains large amounts of free radicals.
- Take the necessary dietary precautions required if you have a medical problem like diabetes mellitus. Remember to get your eyes tested every two years if you are generally healthy but more often if you have medical problems like diabetes mellitus.