By Dr S.S. Gill
Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about the DIETARY ROLE UPON OUR EYES.
The French author Savarin who initially wrote in 1826 in his Handbook of Gastronomy “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”. This was probably paraphrased later and quoted as “you are what you eat”. That quote holds true to this day. Your eyes do reflect in some way about what you eat! Good nutrition is important for eye health and of course for general health too.
Good nutrition not only helps our eyes function well but also helps protect the eyes from certain diseases. In short, a well-balanced nutritious diet is key to keeping your eyes healthy. 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 are like robbers that steal, and in the case of the eyes, the free radical “steal energy” from cells. This process is called oxidative stress and it plays a role in how macular degeneration develops. Alcohol, fried foods, tobacco smoke, pesticides, air pollutants are some things that can cause increased oxidative stress. Antioxidant vitamins like vitamins A, C and E help in preventing such damage from oxidative stress. These vitamins can be found in many different sources of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, carrots and green leafy vegetables.
Two types of carotenoids are essential for eye health by protecting the eyes from oxidative stress especially from the exposure to blue light (high energy photons). The two carotenoids are Lutein and Zeaxanthin, both of which have been shown to have a positive effect on Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) patients. Carotenoids can be found naturally in fresh vegetables, fruits, yellow peppers, mango, bilberries, spinach and broccoli.
A well-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.