Because of the increasing percentage of the older population, the incidence of eye problems in elderly such as dry eyes and macular degeneration is expected to rise.
According to U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans age 55 and over will almost double in the next 20 years.
Aging is not reversible. However, many health related conditions can be prevented or at least have their negative effects to our body minimized. Since most people don’t like taking medications; other reasonable treatment alternatives should be considered. One of these alternatives is balanced nutrition.
The following is a review of the available data about the effects of nutrition on vision.
Do we have convincing data to support the positive effects of nutritional changes on vision problems?
According to a study by the Ocular Nutrition Society over half of the surveyed individuals (45-65 years old) didn’t consider nutrition as an important factor for vision health.
It’s a bummer.
Let’s look at the evidence.
Nutrition and vision: research data
The federal government’s National Eye Institute sponsored Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that adding vitamin C, E, beta carotene, zinc and copper at levels above the recommended daily allowances could reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration by 25%.
This vitamin is an effective antioxidant that protects many essential molecules of the body. It is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for the making of muscles, ligaments, collagens and structural components of blood vessels.
Good sources of vitamin C in milligrams are,
|Brussels spouts||½ cup||48|
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and protects against the oxidation of fat. The retina has a large amount of fatty acids and therefore, protection against free radicals is an important process in this tissue.
The daily recommended intake for active vitamin E is 15 mg/day for both women and men older than 19 years of age. The average intake of vitamin E in men and women older than 50 years is 8.6 and 7.3 mg/day, well below the recommended levels.
Good sources of vitamin E in milligrams are,
Studies have shown that the daily beta carotene consumption in U.S. is around 3-6 mg/day and the average intake in U.S. men and women over 50 years of age is around 2.6 mg/day.
The above mentioned study (AREDS trial) showed a positive effect of taking beta carotene in addition to vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper in reducing the rate of macular degeneration.
It is important to be aware that taking too much beta carotene may increase the risk of developing lung cancer especially in individuals with a smoking history.
Good sources of beta carotene in milligrams are,
|Cantaloupe, raw||½ cup||1.2|
|Red pepper||1 medium||2.9|
|Sweet potatoes||½ cup||15.5|
|Winter squash||½ cup||3.9|
This element is an essential part of many enzymes in order to maintain healthy eyes. It is found in high levels mostly in meat, Therefore, vegetarians may end up having lower blood zinc levels.
The levels of zinc in almonds, beans and peanuts are much lower than in meat. Most Americans meet the minimum requirement for daily zinc intake. It is not surprising since there are few vegetarians and elevated meat consumption.
Good sources of zinc,
|Chicken (Dark meat)||3 oz.||1.8|
Omega 3 fatty acids
It has been suggested that the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are important antioxidants. They have been found to reduce inflammation and to improve the blood perfusion of the eye. DHA is an important part of retina.
There is no recommendation regarding the minimum intake of DHA and EPA for eye health but consuming fish 2-3 times per week is clearly beneficial for eye problems in elderly.
Good sources of EPA +DHA gram per 3 oz,
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Both of these antioxidants are found in the lens and concentrated in the central region of the retina called the macula. It has been suggested that consumption of approximately 6 g per day could help with preventing macular degeneration. The current intake of these antioxidants in adults older than 50 years is well below 2 g per day.
Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin
|Spinach (cooked)||½ cup||6.7|
Adding these elements naturally to your food can help you in several ways. As you may know, I am not a proponent of consuming processed food including supplements and prefer achieving our goals through eating more balanced and well-regarded foods. Knowing your food is important and essential. I hope this article has helped you in this regard.
Eye problems in elderly…
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