An Eye for Health

  • Jaspal Bajwa
  • India
  • Jan 02, 2015

Beckoning eyes are often a prelude to romantic involvement, and at a deeper level it has been said that ‘eyes are the windows to the soul’. The ability to see has been at the core of the human journey towards increased civilization and consciousness. It has been said that: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light’. Within a lifetime, as our maturity and Emotional Quotient (EQ) increases, we are in a sense able ‘to see things in a better light’. However, at a physical level, with advancing age (and sometimes prematurely at an early age) the ability to see gets impaired – leading to poor vision (especially at night), an inability to withstand any glare and the onset of chronic eye diseases.

Reduced vision ranks third (behind arthritis and heart disease) as a cause of impairment in older people. The incidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD ) and Cataract  is growing. Worldwide, more than 25 million people are affected. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 55 in the Western world - and the incidence is expected to triple by 2025.This can be, in part, due to genetics. However lifestyle choices, such as viewing habits, can help mitigate the problem, as also regular eye exercises and robust eye nutrition. In recent years, several studies have helped link diet to eye health and the prevention of several troubling eye conditions. A study in ‘The Archives of Ophthalmology’ (Jan 2011) reported the reduced prevalence of eye disease (6.5%, versus 9.4% earlier) among a 40+ age group when they adopted a healthier diet - including colourful fruits, vegetables and fish. Well-selected natural foods can indeed help defend against not only AMD but also a number of vision disorders, including Cataract (a clouding of the lens), and Glaucoma (a damage of the optic nerve caused by pressure exerted by an excessive fluid in the eyeball). 

Tip of the Week 

Splash the eyes with cold water several times during the day; gently massage the eyes with the soles of your palms, in a circular motion; focus the eyes in different directions - akin to rolling the eyes; walk barefoot on green grass. An overuse of our eyesight in a singular fashion (without alternating between near and distant objects) can be harmful - and this is especially relevant today, given our compulsive obsession with various digital screens. Necessity and practicality are often over-shadowed by sheer indulgence, which unfortunately can lead to addictive behaviours. Risk factors for the eye also include excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as of several pharmaceutical drugs (like cortico-steroids). 

Nature’s Wonder Food(s) of the Week: Nourishment for the Eyes

Xanthophyll-rich dark-coloured (green, red, purple and yellow) fruits and vegetables usually have high levels of important phytochemicals and are key for eye health. Several studies indicate that these may help retard the ageing process of the eye and protect against cataracts. These help provide a rich, colourful and diverse diet, high in antioxidants and bioflavonoids. It is also important to maintain a healthy source of nutrients that especially contain Omega-3 fatty acids and the ‘ACE’ Vitamins - A, C and E. Studies published in American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology have found that higher dietary levels of two carotenoids - Lutein and Zeaxanthin - are associated with a lower risk of eye ailments (and also add colour to the eyes). These carotenoids filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and act as antioxidants in the eye, helping protect and maintain healthy cells. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only these two are deposited in high quantities in the retina (macula) of the eye.

To summarise, the best natural foods for Eye Health are:

 - Leafy-green vegetables - especially collards, spinach, kale, dandelion greens, basil, chard, turnip greens & cress. Most of these have 15-47% of Lutein, but a very low content (0-3%) of Zeaxanthin 

 - Blueberries, strawberries

 - Carrots, peppers, sweet potato, broccoli , green beans

 - Salmon, walnuts, avocado, eggs.

A 1998 study in the Journal of Ophthalmology reported that egg yolk and maize (corn) contain the highest mole percentage (% of total) of Lutein and Zeaxanthin – which constitute more than 85% of the total carotenoids. Additionally, substantial amounts (30-50%) are present in kiwi fruit, grapes, orange juice, zucchini, orange peppers and different squashes. When natural foods are inadequate, due to seasonal or other reasons, selective supplementation can be considered. However, there is little hard evidence to suggest that carotenoid supplements are helpful.

For Education purposes only; always consult a Healthcare Practitioner for medical conditions



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