Diet of cheese, red wine, salmon and peanuts can help prevent blindness

cheese, red wine, salmon and peanuts
As the childhood saying goes, 'eat your carrots and you'll be able to see in the dark'.

While years of scientific studies have debated the issue, the premise is one which escapes most of us.

The importance of a healthy, balanced diet is readily accepted by those desperate to shed pounds to become a slimmer version of themselves.

The motivation to pile our plates high with fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and other nutritious treats is often solely focused on achieving a sleaker physique.

But, unbeknownst to many dieters, is that the beneficial effects of a healthy diet go further, helping to maintain the health of their eyes.

With an ageing population, people are living longer than ever before.

And, as with any other organ in the body, the eyes are also affected as a person ages.

The prevalence of degenerative eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are on the rise.

And experts predict the situation will only get worse.

AMD is already the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, and is expected to increase by 50 per cent in the next five years.

These common sight conditions not only cause severe discomfort, but can trigger irreversible damage and a loss of vision.

Though eyesight is important to everyone, a recent survey carried out by Thea Pharmaceuticals found 60 per cent of us are unaware that the food we eat can affect the health of our eyes.

One in five incorrectly believe what they eat has no bearing on their vision at all.

Professor Christine Purslow, from the University of Plymouth, said: 'It is always a worry that while so many people consider sight so important so few of us take effective practical steps to help maintain eye health.
'For several of these conditions there are no major symptoms to begin with and the patient may not know they are suffering until the deterioration has started and there are much fewer options for treatment.

'In my experience it is very rare that people are fully aware, or understand, just how much things like eye colour, family history, smoking and diet can have a real impact on their eye health.

'It is imperative, in the world we live in today, for people to start thinking about their eye health and what we can do to prevent the onset of these conditions and ensure these important organs stay at optimal health for as long as possible.'
Optometrists fear an increase in convenience and processed foods will play a pivotal role in the deterioration of the nation's sight over the next five to 10 years.

The poll also revealed 75 per cent of respondents had never heard of some of the key nutrients, essential for good eye health.

They include lutein, zeaxanthin or resveratrol.

Leading dietitian Helen Bond told MailOnline that eating a healthy balanced diet plays a vital role for overall health.

But, she added, there is also evidence to show that good nutrition can optimise the health of a person's eyes.
She said: 'Eating a varied, well-balanced diet incorporating foods from the four main food groups should provide all of the nutrition the body needs.

'The profile of what we eat has changed drastically over the last 100 years with innovation in food production processes.

'The Western diet now is rich in processed foods, animal proteins and refined carbs while lacking in nutritious wholegrain carbs, beans and pulses and fruit and vegetables.

'We have all read the headlines and know that a poor diet can cause problems such as increased cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

'Many of these are actually also risk factors for developing age-related macula degeneration and yet people just don't think about their eye health in the same way.

'It's important to eat enough fruit and vegetables, bread, rice, potatoes and other starchy foods, meat, fish, including one 140g portion of oily fish a week, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein and milk and dairy foods.
She highlighted the need to ensure the four key groups of nutrients are accounted for, including vitamins and minerals C and E, zinc, selenium and copper.

In addition, studies have shown the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as essential omega 3 fats and the polyphenol resveratrol, help give the eyes the nutritional support to help maintain good vision.


Research has shown that the 'antioxidants' vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins C, E, zinc, selenium and copper are helpful in maintaining eye health.

It is thought they may help to prevent and, or slow down the progression of eye conditions that become more common with age, as a result of the 'free radical' theory of cell damage.

That is that over the course of a person's lifetime, free radicals - highly reactive substances created in your body by breathing, eating and by other factors such as air pollution and smoking tobacco, cause damage to the cells in your body.

This is the 'wear and tear' that causes ageing.

Antioxidants are thought to help by 'mopping up' these free radicals, to delay or prevent them from damaging your cells.

The retina and the macula which forms the part of the retina that is responsible for our central vision, most of our colour vision and the fine detail of what we see, is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body's antioxidant defences.

That is because of its high consumption of oxygen, its high proportion of long chain polyunsaturated fats PUFAs, a target of free radicals and its direct exposure to visible light.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recognised that vitamins C, E, zinc, selenium and copper contribute to the protection of the body's cells from oxidative stress.

This, in turn, may play a key role in maintaining eye health as we age.

These key vitamins and nutrients can be found in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables including apples, blackcurrants and passion fruit, dairy products such as cheese and milk, seafood and lean red meat such as salmon and mince beef, and nuts such as pistachios and peanuts.


A wealth of past research has shown that omega 3 nutrients help support heart health by maintaining normal blood pressure.

One of the key omega 3 fatty acids, docosahexaenic acid (DHA), also play a key role in the structure and function of the sensory retina.

The European Food Safety Authority acknowledges DHA contributes to the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age and to the maintenance of normal vision.

Studies have also revealed omega 3s benefits for maintaining eye health as we age.

The Alienor Study involving 666 French subjects confirmed a decreased risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in those with a high dietary intake of long chain omega 3 PUFA.

Clinical trials have also shown positive effects on the symptoms of dry eye.

Herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna steak, are rich in omega 3s.

If you don’t eat fish then nuts such as walnuts and linseeds and flaxseeds also contain omega-3 in the plant form of short chain alpha-linolenic acid.


Lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally found as pigments in the macula.

They are thought to offer protection to the cells there from damage from oxidative stress and harmful blue light.

Studies have revealed their beneficial effects on slowing down the progression of some age-related conditions.

Green leafy vegetables and brightly coloured fruits such as kale, spinach, broccoli and peas.


Emerging research suggests that resveratrol, a polyphenol plant compound found naturally in grape skins and peanuts, is linked with health benefits.

For example, one study examined the French paradox, the puzzling fact that rates of coronary heart disease are low in France, despite the French typically enjoying a rich calorie diet, not particularly low in saturated fat.

Thanks to reservatrol's antioxidant qualities, scientists believe the compound may also be vital to maintaining eye health.

Resveratrol can be found in peanuts as well as red grapes.

For those who struggle to incorporate the vitamins and minerals essential for eye health into their daily diet, Mrs Bond said supplements can help fill in the gaps.

She told MailOnline: 'Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult, especially in fast-paced modern life, and it can be hard to get enough of some eye-friendly nutrients shown to slow down the progression of degenerative eye conditions through diet alone.'

An eye health specific supplement, such as Nutrof Total, can help bridge the gap and support a healthy balanced diet, and ensure your eyes are getting all the nutrients they need.

'Eye health supplements to support a balanced and varied diet can be a good option to bridge that gap and help maintain eye health,' Mrs Bond said.

Credit: Lizzie Parry

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