Food and eye health – explaining the lingo
- Macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is damage to the cells in the macula, the part of the eye you use for reading and fine detail tasks. In the early stages this can cause small print to appear distorted. As one eye is usually affected before the other you may not notice these early changes. There is no pain with the condition. As it progresses the central distortion or fuzziness can turn into a blank spot which makes it hard to read small print or recognise faces. Macular degeneration does not usually lead to total sight loss: if you have the condition you are likely to retain your side vision which enables you to get around.
Zinc helps your body absorb vitamin A. It has been shown to protect against macular degeneration and night blindness. Good food sources of zinc include seafood, beef, eggs, black-eyed peas, tofu and wheat germ.
Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that most people will experience as they get older. Fortunately, it can be treated, often as day surgery. The majority of people with cataract will find that their vision is much improved after surgery. The overall success rate of cataract surgery in the UK is over 95 per cent and the chances of a serious or sight-threatening complication are less than 1 in 500. After getting your glasses updated you will be able to carry on with daily life as normal.
Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, whole oats and whole-wheat breads and pasta contain vitamin E, zinc and niacin to promote overall eye health. These grains also have a lower glycaemic index (GI) than processed grains, which may help reduce your risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Like lutein, zeaxanthin is a carotenoid, a pigments found widely in vegetables and other plants. Cooked spinach is one of the best natural food sources. Zeaxanthin appear to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, especially from high-energy light rays called blue light. It is found in high concentrations in the macula, and appears to protect against macular degeneration.
Bioflavonoids are important antioxidants that help keep your eyes and body healthy. They are found in foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and many vegetables, and work best when combined with vitamin C.
- Night blindness
Night blindness can be caused by a deficiency of the fat soluble vitamin A. People with Coeliac or Crohn’s disease may not absorb vitamin A properly. Milk, cereals, cheese, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach are all good sources of the vitamin.