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Protect Your Eyes With Proper Nutrition

Aug 27, 2008
As we age our eyes are vulnerable to three different medical problems. The most serious is age related macular degeneration or AMD. This disease is due to cell degeneration in the macula, that part of the eye which controls central vision. Another problem that accompanies aging is the development of cataracts. A cataract is due to free radical damage, which causes a cloud over the lens.

Older people are also prone to dry eye syndrome since, in the aging process, our eyes become less efficient in producing tears.

Dry eye syndrome does not interfere with vision but it is painful. Cataracts can be successfully removed in outpatient surgery and vision is restored. However, macular degeneration cannot be reversed; it is a chronic problem.

So as we age, it is important to make nutritional choices which will ward off these diseases and protect our vision. It is just as important that we avoid the foods, which may help impair our vision.

Two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are present in large quantities in the retina and lens of the eye. Here, they act as antioxidants to shield our eyes from damaging free radicals. There has been several research studies performed on the value of these carotenoids in eye health.

On April 7, 2004, the North Chicago VA Medical Center stated in a press release that lutein had been proven to help prevent and even reverse the symptoms of AMD.

Both lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard green and other leafy greens. However, doctors are also advising that people increase their intake of these substances through supplementation some research studies demonstrated that to be effective in reversing symptoms of macular degeneration, the doses had to be higher than one can obtain from food consumption alone.

Eggs are also good sources of these antioxidants. A study was reported in the Journal of Nutrition which stated that thirty-three adults who ate one egg every day for five weeks had an increase of the carotenoids without any adverse effect on blood fats or cholesterol.

Beta-carotene, found in yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, cantaloupes, pumpkin and squash is also important for normal vision and retinal health.

A mineral, which you need in your diet for optimal eye health, is zinc. This is readily available in fortified cereals, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

It is also important to eat fish, which contains the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Fish has been found to be helpful for people with dry eye syndrome. Omega-3 is found in cold water fish such as salmon and black cod. People who are concerned about the mercury levels in fish should consider a fish oil supplement.

Finally, the antioxidant glutathione is necessary for lens health. However, this can't be obtained from food. Your body manufactures this in your liver but first you must eat sulfur-containing foods such as onions, garlic, shallots and capers. However, some doctors recommend acquiring this as a supplement (250 mg. twice daily of alpha-lipoic acid).

What you don't eat can be as important as what you do eat. It is recommended that you avoid trans fats, saturated fats, and foods made with sugar and flour. These foods can stress your liver and that will negatively impact your eye function. In other words, try to stay away from processed and fast foods.

While some of these recommendations have been beneficial for those having symptoms of various eye problems, you will realize greater benefits if you start while your eyes are still young and healthy.
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