Nutrition and Eye Health (Part 2)

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Nutrition and Eye Health (Fats)

Eye problems aren’t inevitable for people with diabetes. Gaining control of your blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels are the first steps for protecting your eyes against diabetic retinopathy. Last week, we started to look at how the food you eat can affect your eye health.

We touched upon the quality of carbohydrates you eat (the best being low-glycemic-index carbs) and how they might prevent age-related macular degeneration (an eye condition also more common in people with diabetes than in people without). This week, we’ll look at some specific fats and their roles in eye health.

-- Keep an eye on your vision! Learn about preventive steps and treatments for diabetic retinopathy from retinal specialist Dr. Charles Wykoff. >>

Trans fat: By now, most people are aware about trans fat. Even if you’re not quite sure what it is, the message from the media that it’s bad has been pretty loud and clear.

Trans fat is primarily a manufactured fat, although it does exist naturally in some foods. It is strongly linked with heart disease, even more so than saturated fat. Store-bought cookies, crackers, and other baked goods, as well as some margarines and fast foods, are the leading sources.

There’s now evidence that consuming trans fat may increase the risk of developing macular degeneration, possibly by leading to plaque buildup in the blood vessels of the eyes. A study out of Harvard University, looking at people 60 years of age and older, found that those who ate the least total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat had the slowest progression of macular degeneration.

Omega-3 fatty acids: We’ve looked at omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) in a previous blog entry. A study published this past July in the journal Nature Medicine, which involved mice, showed that increasing the intake of omega-3s after injury to eye blood vessels helped vessel regrowth and limited inflammation. The conclusion was that omega-3s may help protect against the development and progression of retinal diseases.

For now, aiming to eat at least two fish meals each week, and/or possibly taking fish oil supplements may help protect your vision as well as your heart health. By the way, omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect against dry eye syndrome, which is a lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture in the eye. Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include dryness, scratching, and burning.

Next week, we’ll wrap up with information about some antioxidants that are important for eye health.

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