Common Sense Health: Protecting Eyesight with the right food

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By Medicine Hat News on March 15, 2024.

STOCK IMAGE COURTESY GIFFORD JONES

It was 200 years ago that Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer and culinary writer, first wrote “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” It’s a simple and enduring message. But people are not being watchful of what they eat, and it is having far-reaching consequences, not just around the middle.

Like other organs, the eyes are affected by diet. Many research teams have shown that a poor diet increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) of the eye.

Today AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss for those over the age of 65. By 75 one in three North Americans have early signs of AMD.

A command given to American soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill was, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” But if these soldiers suffered from age-related macular degeneration, they would not have fired a single shot. AMD destroys the macular, a tiny spot at the back of the eye known as the retina that’s responsible for central vision. Without central vision it’s impossible to drive a car or see grandchildren clearly. It robs people of their independence, and often leads to depression.

In one study. researchers fed mice a low glycemic diet which is rich in slowly digested carbohydrates (whole natural grains). Another group of mice were given a diet high in rapidly digested carbohydrates (refined processed grains). They discovered the mice on the slowly digested carbohydrates developed fewer retinal changes. More surprising was that switching mice from a high to slowly digested carbohydrates diet appeared to stop retinal damage.

Why the difference? A high glycemic diet, speedily absorbed, causes frequent spikes in blood sugar. The unhealthy consequences can lead to Type 2 diabetes.

The human gut contains a variety of bacteria, some being helpful and others harmful. How they act depends on whether the glycemic index is low or high.

These microorganisms produce chemical substances known as metabolites. Low quality diets produce metabolites that cause harm to the retina and increase the risk of AMD.

There are two types of AMD. The dry type affects about 90 percent of sufferers in which small yellow deposits cause dryness of the macula. The wet type, the more serious, occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula, distorting and affecting central vision.

What can you do to decrease the risk AMD? See an ophthalmologist at age 65 or sooner, then every two years to detect any visual changes.

The key message is to take a good look at the food on your plate, and remember “you are what you eat”. For many decades, we have been eating more refined flour, devoid of vitamins and minerals, many packaged foods and too much sugar. What we need is more whole wheat, fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Our dietary failure has triggered an epidemic of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and now macular degeneration. Years ago, infection killed people in the prime of life. Now it’s degenerative diseases. But there’s a big difference.

Infectious disease killed quickly. Degenerative ones cause a slow painful way to the grave.

Learn more about the glycemic index and the hazards of high blood sugar. Diet is key, and if you want more guidance, stop into a natural health store where experts can point you to supplements that help with glycemic control.

Never forget the Gifford-Jones Law that states one bad problem leads to another and another. Poor diet leads to obesity, diabetes, heart attack, and now macular degeneration. Will we ever learn?

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