More than just carrots: the role of nutrition in preventing myopia.
Many people will remember their grandmothers telling them to eat carrots for better eyesight, but these ladies were only partly correct. As with so many health-related questions, the answer to the question of what foods can help in the fight against myopia is: “It’s complicated.” Australian behavioural optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno explains the basics of what we know about myopia and the role of healthy nutrition in safeguarding eyesight.
“Studies often produce tantalising results that are all-too-easy to misinterpret,” says Jacqueline. “For example, a famous study found that children who developed myopia ate less energy-rich foods, had a lower intake of B-vitamins and vitamin C, and ate less fatty and protein-rich foods.”
“That may seem conclusive enough, but it was found that there were no significant height or weight differences between myopic children and their peers, which would be expected when nutritional intake was low enough to indicate malnourishment. As a result, the researchers were forced to conclude that the myopes weren’t undernourished and may just have represented a group with a lower energy requirement.”
“The point about physical energy requirements opens the door to speculation. There is definitely research showing a link between spending too much time indoors and the progression of short-sightedness. However, we don’t know anything about indoor versus outdoor activity in the group with ‘lower energy requirements.’ It’s certainly possible that this was a more sedentary group that spent less time in outdoor play, but even if it was, it can’t be known whether the same nutritional findings would have applied had both myopic and non-myopic groups of children been exposed to the same levels of activity, particularly outdoor activity.”
Sometimes, it’s best to take an uncomplicated view to eliminate confusion, and that’s just what Jacqueline does. “It’s an accepted fact that a healthy, balanced diet is important to one’s health, and there’s no reason to believe that eye-health is any different. There are certain foods that are linked to the maintenance of eye-health, but they shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. Balance will always be key in nutrition and a balanced diet should benefit eye-health along with overall physical health.”
Balance is certainly a sensible approach, but knowing which foods (other than carrots) are best for maintaining healthy eyes and possibly even clear vision is nevertheless of interest. As with all things eye-related, Jacqueline has the available information at her fingertips.
“Oily fish like herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna top the list. There’s evidence that the Omega-3s found in oily fish can contribute to reducing dry eye issues, and Omega-3s are linked to a host of other health benefits,” says Jacqueline. Seeds and nuts also contain Omega-3s, and unless there are allergies to add to the equation, they’re a healthy snack food for between-meals nibbling.
“Antioxidant vitamins are believed to protect against various age-related eye problems, and the best source of these nutrients is to be found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Once again, the whole body benefits and people of all ages can enjoy better health. And yes, carrots are good because they contain Vitamin A – so the old urban legend wasn’t altogether wrong.”
“Beef and eggs contain zinc, which is an element found in higher levels in the eyes than elsewhere in the body, so it’s possible that both of these foods, as well as other foods containing this trace element, are good for the eyes.”
Last but not least, Jacqueline observes that water helps to keep the body functioning as it should, and that applies to the eyes too. It is known that staying hydrated can help to reduce dry eye symptoms, and that’s just one of the many benefits of drinking enough water. By now, we’ve covered most of the ingredients of a balanced diet, but it does serve to illustrate that there’s no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to eating for healthier eyes and better vision.”
For more information on vision and the importance of eye health, or to book an appointment for a thorough eye or vision check-up, visit the Smart Vision website: Optometrists Sydney: Optometry Services For Children and Adults | Smart Vision; for specific information about Myopia treatment and prevention visit Myopia Prevention: Solutions, Control And Treatment In Sydney; and for detailed information about Myopia Treatment visit Orthokeratology In Sydney: The Non Surgical Alternative.
To book an appointment for a thorough eye check-up, click here or Call the Bondi clinic on (02) 9365 5047 or the Mosman clinic on (02) 9969 1600.
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Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Bengaluru Bytes journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.