January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Because glaucoma is insidious and cannot be cured, and its effects cannot be reversed, ophthalmologists are well placed to teach risk reduction methods to their patients.
Patients may not believe diet can have an effect on their risk of glaucoma, but research has found correlations between certain dietary factors and an increased or decreased risk. Before your patients get to the point where they are most at risk for glaucoma, there are some diet suggestions you can make.
A person’s carbohydrate intake can play a role in glaucoma risk. In particular, diets with a high intake of carbohydrates correlated with a higher risk of glaucoma, while a lower intake of carbohydrates correlated with a lower risk. A 2020 study published in Eye examined the possible association between primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and long-term low-carbohydrate eating habits.1 The researchers not only found no correlation between a low-carbohydrate diet and an increased risk of POAG, but also found if a low-carbohydrate diet Diet containing higher amounts of vegetable fat and protein was at lower risk for the POAG subtype, which was defined by an initial paracentral visual field loss.
Conversely, in a 2020 study of nutrients, researchers looked at genetic risk factors for glaucoma and found that the risk was more significant in patients with high carbohydrate intake compared to lower carbohydrate intake
A study in Nutrients looked at possible associations between dietary habits and age-related eye diseases and found that healthy calorie restriction can have positive effects on the eyes.³ When people consume relatively low amounts of calories and still get adequate nutrients, they are more likely to trigger this what the researchers called “antiaging mechanisms,” helping them limit the dysfunction of the eye.
- Leafy vegetables
Foods rich in nitrates can also be beneficial for patient eye health. The researchers also found that ingredients in dark green leafy vegetables (nitric oxide, glutathione, flavonoids, etc.) are linked to a reduced risk of developing glaucoma. Leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach, arugula, and kale should be recommended to patients who want to eat better while reducing the risk of glaucoma.
Leafy vegetables are also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can help with oxidative stress, which is a risk factor for developing glaucoma. Foods high in antioxidants, which include blueberries, strawberries, and pecans, can be included in dietary recommendations for patients looking to reduce their risk.
While the researchers found that nitric oxide and antioxidants can be beneficial for reducing the risk of glaucoma, they also found that the mineral selenium was linked to an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Although daily selenium requirements are minimal, it can be helpful to let your patients know to limit their amounts of selenium-rich foods like fish and beef.
It’s also important to educate your patients that while diet is essential to optimal ophthalmic health and can reduce the risk of glaucoma, it is only part of the process. Patients also need to exercise regularly and limit behaviors such as smoking and caffeine consumption. Regular eye exams also help identify early signs of glaucoma.
- Hanyuda A, Rosner BA, Wiggs JL et al. Low-carbohydrate diet scores and risk of primary open-angle glaucoma: data from three US cohorts. Eye (Lond). 2020; 34 (8): 1465- 1475. doi: 10.1038 / s41433-020-0820-5
- Jee D, Huang S, Kang S, Park S. Polygenetic risk assessments for glaucoma risk interact with blood pressure, glucose control, and carbohydrate intake. Nutrient. 2020; 12 (11): 3282. doi: 10.3390 / nu12113282
- Francisco SG, Smith KM, Aragonès G. et al. Food habits, carbohydrates and age-related eye diseases. Nutrient. 2020; 12 (9): 2862. doi: 10.3390 / nu12092862
This article originally appeared on Ophthalmology Advisor