Forget Carrots; Eat This Food for Reducing the Risk of Eye Disease

eye health, b vitamins, folic acid, b12, macular degeneration, vision loss
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Carrots have long been known to be good for the eyes because they are rich in beta-carotene. Research has found, however, that two of the B vitamins can help reduce the risk of age-related eye disease. Here is one food you should add to your menu to protect your eyes from future vision loss.

In a study involving 1760 subjects aged 55 and older, folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies were found to be predictive of an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, a common eye condition among older adults and a leading cause of vision loss. The reason? It appears to be related to an amino acid known as homocysteine.

Those with high levels of homocysteine are at a greater risk for heart disease. Although this factor is normally produced by the body, excess levels in the blood is associated with atherosclerosis – hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Just as diminished blood flow to the heart and brain can lead to heart attack and stroke, respectively, interruption of nutrients and oxygen to the eyes can also cause disease processes to occur.

Previous studies have found that those with high levels of homocysteine in the blood are also often deficient in vitamins B12 and folate. Folic acid and other B vitamins help break down homocysteine within the body.

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Vitamin B12 is found primarily in meat and other animal products such as milk and cheese. Foods best known for their rich folic acid content include leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts; whole grains; and dried beans. There is one food that contains both B12 and folate – the egg.

Eggs have been both devils and angels in the nutrition world, but most experts are realizing that, as with many foods, eating eggs in moderation can provide the body with many nutrients. For example, one egg contains 6 grams of protein and some healthful unsaturated fats. Eggs are also a good source of choline, which has been linked with preserving memory, and lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect against vision loss.

Harvard Health says that eating one egg a day is not detrimental to your overall health, especially if your overall diet is low in saturated and trans fats and includes a variety of foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, beans, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.

Other ways to protect the body from age-related vision loss include avoiding smoking, exercising, and maintaining a normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Reference:
Bamini Gopinath, Victoria M Flood, Elena Rochtchina, Jie Jin Wang, and Paul Mitchell. Homocysteine, folate, vitamin B-12, and 10-y incidence of age-related macular degeneration. First published May 1, 2013, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.057091 Am J Clin Nutr June 2013ajcn.057091

Additional Resource:
National Eye Institute (National Institutes of Health)

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