Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among adults. The disease involves an increase in pressure in the eye, which distorts the shape of the eyeball, damaging the lens of the eye, and resulting in blindness. This disease can be mitigated to an extent with eye drops, and cannabis, too, has shown to be of help. Sadly, many people go blind due to glaucoma.
Now a study has shown that eating the right foods may help to reduce the risk of glaucoma, prevent the disease, and help people to maintain healthy eyesight longer in life. Researchers reported their findings in the Archives of the Spanish Society of Ophthalmology.
Doctors have known for some time that too much salt can increase overall blood pressure, leading to increased intra-ocular pressure in the eyes, exacerbating glaucoma. Therefore, moderate salt consumption has been a standard dietary recommendation for those with, or at risk for, glaucoma. But the Spanish study goes further, examining the diets of people in two American ophthalmological studies, and in one study from Rotterdam.
According to these large population studies, intake of foods rich in retinol— a form of vitamin A— helps to reduce the risk of glaucoma. Retinol-rich foods include milk, liver, cheese and butter. Interestingly, there was no evidence that a diet rich in dietary fats has any role in the promotion of glaucoma, even though it is well established that, in general, excessive intake of fats contributes to obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Digging deeper, the researchers saw a correlation between lower rates of glaucoma and higher consumption of leafy green vegetables (notably cabbage), carrots, fruits and fruit juices in general, and especially orange-colored fruits such as peaches and apricots.
The Spanish study also recommended high antioxidant foods including green tea, chocolate (the darker and more bitter the better), coffee (skip the sugar and go easy on the cream), and regular black tea. At the same time, they cautioned that those who have well-established cases of glaucoma should consume little or no caffeine, as that can increase intraocular pressure and exacerbate the disease.
To a great extent, the study highlighted the benefits of the usual suspects. Leafy green vegetables and colorful foods are cited for their protective, disease-preventing benefits, due largely to their concentration of beneficial antioxidants. Flavonol-rich foods, notably tea, green tea, coffee and chocolate, offer preventive benefits that extent to glaucoma. And red wine, with its significant antioxidant load, is also recommended.
In the glaucoma study, the researchers provided a seven-point set of guidelines for reducing risk. They are:
1. Consume abundant amounts of colorful fruit and vegetables.
2. Avoid high intake of salt in patients with hypertensive glaucoma.
3. Refrain from high-calorie diets (restricting fat) to avoid an increase in body fat.
4. Consider eating fish or nuts rich in omega-3 PFA, which appear to reduce risk.
5. Avoid drinking large amounts of liquid in a single take. It is preferable to drink small amounts in the course of the day.
6. Consume moderate amounts of red wine, black chocolate and green tea.
7. Avoid coffee and caffeinated beverages into reduce increased blood pressure if you already have glaucoma.
Hundreds of years ago, Hippocrates, regarded as the father of modern medicine, said “Let your food be thy medicine.” Our grandmothers said pretty much the same thing. Now it appears that even with a leading cause of blindness, this advice is sage indeed.