Your body has many chemical processes that you might not even think about half the time. But many of the organic compounds it needs can’t be made without the right building blocks, i.e., your diet’s nutritional content. Diet is such a powerful method for improving your health.
Nutrition researchers have found some very reliable connections between eye health and nutrients from whole foods in your diet. Moreover, careful supplementation can make up for a lot of nutritional gaps in your meals. However, an adequate intake of nutrients essential to eye health doesn’t mean your eyes are safe. Some foods might actually undermine your eye health.
Good Nutrients & Junk Content
Diet is more foundational than most people think. The nutrients you can get from foods you consume habitually do their work slowly. By the same token, eating foods high in harmful content, lacking in nutrients can cause harm gradually.
Think of it as construction. If your building materials are substandard, your body might be a castle built upon sand. When building, you wouldn’t want to put a brittle, crumbling brick next to a decent one, so it helps to know what foods you need to watch out for. While you can help offset a bad diet with supplements, it’s not a replacement for a bad diet.
Prevention of eye disease can often come down to the intake of vitamins specifically helpful to your eyes. Incorporating the following can give your eyes the building blocks you need to stay healthy:
- vitamins A, C, and E
- omega-3 fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fats are essential, but the western diet can be a little deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, along with omega-6 fatty acids, are hard to combine in the right quantities. That means you might not ingest enough omega-3s to aid your tear film, the coating on your eyes that keeps them lubricated and comfortable.
If you’re at risk for developing evaporative dry eye (EDE), being short on omega-3s puts you at a disadvantage. Omega-3s break down into 3 fatty acids, specifically:
Your diet can lead to some serious consequences for your eye health if you carry the right risk factors. Genetics has a lot to do with it, but some risk factors boil down to what you eat.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids are overrepresented in the average western diet, while omega-3s are underrepresented. Common sources include processed foods, eggs, salty snacks, cakes, and cured meats.
Inflammation & Caloric Content
A diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids can contribute to diabetes in a couple of ways. Firstly, omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory nutrients, and chronic bodily inflammation can trigger diabetes, as well as some other conditions.
Secondly, polyunsaturated fats, including both omega-3s and omega-6s, are high in caloric content, at 9 calories per gram. Of course, if you take too many calories from food sources rich in omega-6s, you can gain more weight than you intend if you’re not careful enough.
Diabetes can have a few causes depending on whether it falls under type 1 or 2, but being chronically overweight can trigger it.
Diabetic Eye Conditions
Diabetes can have unexpected complications, requiring diabetic eye exams frequently to stay ahead of these complications once you develop the condition. These complications can lead to complete or partial blindness, and they can include:
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Non-proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
- Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy
- Diabetic Macular Edema
Avoiding diabetic eye complications is undoubtedly worth reforming your diet. Whether you have diabetes or you’re at relatively high risk of developing it—avoiding processed foods, maintaining your weight, and eating healthy are essential to preserving your eye health.
Sometimes nutritional imbalances might even lead to muscle spasms in your eyes. A lousy diet remains a risk factor for developing myokymia, a small but noticeable type of eye twitching. In particular, too much caffeine might be linked to myokymia.
Bad Diet & AMD Risk Factors
Findings from a study done for the British Journal of Ophthalmology indicated that a bad diet doesn’t necessarily cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD). However, it does constitute a significant risk factor to eat a diet made up of the worst the western world has to offer.
These include chips, candy, deep-fried foods, soda, and other junk foods. On average, participants were about 3 times more likely to develop late-onset AMD than those who ate mostly healthy eye foods—with their diet forming a significant risk factor in its development.
Moreover, staple foods in the western diet have less nutrient density than unprocessed staples. Much of the intensive food processing that goes on with junk staples like bologna or potato chips rob these snacks of their nutrient content.
At the very least, food processing dilutes that content, so you’re likely to be more deficient in daily servings than those comprised of whole fish, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.
Processed foods common to the western diet can also cause weight gain and systemic inflammation. As with diabetes, these conditions can also add risk to the potential development of AMD.
Diet & Eye Health
Diet is a balancing act. You need to get just enough essential nutrients and minimal junk stuff to enjoy good eye health and overall health, by extension.
Cutting down on omega-6s, caffeine, and other ingredients common to processed foods can be difficult. But with age, diabetes, AMD, and dry eye tend to pose greater risks. Diet and frequent eye exams are defensive tactics that can optimize vision and eye health, so you can enjoy your golden years.
Book an appointment today if you’re at risk for AMD, diabetes, or dry eye; we can help you navigate your nutritional needs to make eye health a priority.
Of course, the list of eye health complications is not limited solely to AMD, diabetes, or dry eye. If you have any further questions about what more dietary risks can impact your vision, call us at (301) 859-4060 or complete our form. We serve families in Alexandria, VA, and various areas in Maryland, including Potomac and Rockville.