They used to say during the war that carrots helped you see in the dark and British troops were fed these in abundance. Apparently this was done as a ruse to scare the enemy into believing the British had naturally super night vision and could see without lights. Perhaps there is a grain of truth in these stories. Read on ...
You’ve heard the phrase ‘you are what you eat’. Yes this does imply body health and also has implications on eyes. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables contain anti-oxidants that help protect our body’s cells from deterioration. Two carotenoids (highly coloured pigment) that are linked to eye health are lutein and zeaxanthin. These occur naturally in the retina of a healthy eye and are believed to protect the eyes from free radical damage, but the concentration decreases with age. They are found in green leafy vegetables, corn, brightly coloured fruit and egg yolk. Observational studies have shown that high intake of these relates to a lower risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. For the oil phobic among you, vegetables containing lutein are best taken with some oil. Without oil, only a little lutein will be absorbed by the body.
Bilberry, an antioxidant that is associated with eye health, protects from free radicals and improves blood flow and oxygen to the eyes. It also helps in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma. Carrots are rich in carotenoids which help optimize vision. Not sure whether they will help your night vision! If you do suffer from poor night vision, this could mean you’re deficient in zinc, so eat seafood and nuts.
Vigorous exercise does more than just raise your heart rate and improve muscle. It increases blood flow around the body which means more nutrients are carried to the organs. In the US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a study over seven years followed 41,000 runners both male and female and found that running reduced the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Although we may not all be partial to a bit of running, it is recommended that we partake of at least one strenuous activity during the week. It is not clear whether moderate activity such as walking has the same impact on eye health.
When we do succumb to wearing glasses or lenses, it is usual that the rate deterioration in the eyes increases as we rely on the visual aids to do the work for us. The Bates Method which was developed at the turn of the 20th century by Dr William H Bates promotes a relaxation technique. Dr Bates concluded that eye strain was a major cause of poor eye health and instead of squinting, staring, or rapid blinking, learning techniques that ease the muscle strain can help to restore good eyesight. It works with common eyesight problems including long and short-sightedness and astigmatism. www.seeing.org to find out about Bates method and classes.
Smoking doubles your risk of age-related macular degeneration. It increases free radical damage to your body, inhibits blood flow and oxygen to the eyes, and the smoke makes you squint. Being a passive smoker or being in smoky atmospheres is just as bad for your eyes. Chemical fumes from plug-in air fresheners, cleaning sprays and aerosols can damage the cell membranes. The chemicals from harsh cleaning products can damage the eyes. Look for natural alternatives, see www.ecotopia.co.uk.
If you are overweight and need glasses then your chance of developing advanced macular degeneration is double that of a person of healthy weight. A high intake of fat is also associated with increased risk of macular degeneration. These are the fats contained in commercially prepared cakes, biscuits, pies and chips, as well as processed foods.
Some sources believe artificial sweetener aspartame can cause a wide range of eye problems. Aspartame is broken down in the body into methanol or wood alcohol which they claim causes retinal damage. The trouble is the damage is long term and can occur slowly over time.
If your dietary intake of carotenoids and beta-carotene is not good, you could do well to take high quality supplements that contain the ingredients lutein and/or zeaxanthin. And if you decide to go down the supplement route, check the vitamin A level. Retinol is important for good eye health but taking high levels of retinol over long term can be detrimental to the liver. If you prefer to take the plant form of vitamin A, take beta-carotene which is converted to retinol in the liver.
RECOMMENDED EYE SUPPLEMENT
Viridian’s eye health supplement Lutein Plus contains lutein (taken from marigold), beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, bioflavanoids, lycopene, zinc plus other minerals.