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                                                                                                                                                 Prevent Blindness Ohio
                                                                                                                                                 Stacie Lehman
                                                                                                                                                 Phone: 800-301-2020 ext. 105
                                                                                                                                                 E-mail: [email protected]


Eating for the Eyes Should Always be a Part of the Menu


Columbus, OH (January 31, 2012)–We’ve all heard the expression “eating with your eyes,” but many people may not be aware of the benefits of eating for your eyes. In addition to promoting overall health, a diet rich with sight-saving beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and certain vitamins can also help guard against vision loss from eye disease, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).


AMD diminishes central vision and currently affects the vision of more than 2 million Americans and more than 92,000 Ohioans ages 50 and older and is a leading cause of blindness.  AMD is a progressive disease that if left untreated, can result in severe vision loss and even blindness.  The exact cause of AMD is unknown, but risk factors for the disease include age, race, smoking, family history as well as those with cardiovascular disease and hypertension.


A wide variety of foods including lentils, grapes, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, kale, certain kinds of fish, turkey and some kinds of nuts have been shown to aid eye health.  Although there are a variety of available over-the-counter supplements designed for vision and eye health, a doctor should always be consulted before use.


Foods that contain refined starches and are high in sugar can be damaging to vision.  A study by Tufts University has shown that high-glycemic foods cause a dramatic rise in blood sugar, which over time, may damage the retina and capillaries in the eye by promoting oxidative stress and inflammation.  Soda and sugary drinks, candy, baked goods, some cereals, white rice, foods made with white flour, such as white bread and pasta, should be avoided.


According to the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, more than one serving per week of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish is associated with a 35 percent increased risk of macular degeneration as compared with less than three servings per month. Additionally, one serving per day of high-fat dairy food, such as whole milk, ice cream, hard cheese, or butter, also increases the risk of macular degeneration progression.


“We all know that watching what we eat can lead to overall health benefits such as lower cholesterol and a reduction of calories, but maintaining a healthy diet, day after day, can be very challenging,” said Sherry Williams, President & CEO ofPrevent BlindnessOhio.  “Prevent Blindness Ohiohopes to encourage the public to remember that everything we put in our mouths can affect our eyes!”


Other healthy habits can lead to healthy vision.  The risk of eye disease and vision loss can be lowered by:

  • Avoiding trans fats

  • Quitting smoking

  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol

  • Exercising regularly

  • Visiting an eye care professional on a regular basis

In conjunction with February as Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month, Prevent Blindness Ohiooffers a dedicated online resource for patients and caretakers to learn more about the disease.  The website,, offers a variety of tools and information on everything from risk factors to treatment options. 


For more information on AMD and other eye disease, please contact Prevent Blindness Ohio at 800-301-2020 or visit


About Prevent Blindness Ohio

Prevent Blindness Ohio, founded in 1957, is Ohio’s leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to prevent blindness and preserve sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight. Prevent Blindness Ohio is an affiliate of Prevent Blindness America, the country’s second-oldest national voluntary health organization. For more information or to make a contribution, call 800-301-2020.  Or, visit us on the web at or







  • More than 2 million Americans, ages 50 and older, have AMD. (Vision Problems in the U.S., 2008 update)
  • Prevent Blindness America’s 2007 research study, “The Economic Impact of Vision Problems” states that AMD costs the U.S. economy $570 million every year in direct medical costs for outpatient, inpatient and prescription drug services.
  • Individually, the costs of outpatient services for AMD patients, between the ages of 40 and 64, is $305 per year, with an additional $110 in medications and vitamins.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, like all other carotenoids, are not synthesized in the body. Thus, lutein and zeaxanthin must be obtained solely from the diet where the richest sources are dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, and various orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (Mangels, Holden, Beecher, Forman, & Lanza,1993).
  • The characteristic yellow coloration of the macula is due to the presence of macular pigment comprised of lutein and zeaxanthin (Beatty, Boulton, Henson, Koh, & Murray, 1999; Beatty, Nolan, Kavanagh, & O’Donovan, 2004)
  • AMD is in part a manifestation of an ocular deficiency of lutein and/or zeaxanthin and that higher macular levels of these xanthophyll carotenoids may protect against AMD. (“The Value of Measurement of Macular Carotenoid Pigment Optical Densities and Distributions in Age-related Macular Degeneration and Other Retinal Disorders,” Bernstein, P.S., et al, Vision Research 2009)
  • An estimated 500,000 new cases of wet AMD are diagnosed annually. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of dry AMD cases will progress to wet AMD. (AMD Alliance International.)
  • AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the Western world and third-most common cause around the world. If left untreated, the majority of eyes affected with wet AMD will become functionally blind within two years. (AMD Alliance International.)
  • People with AMD are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression than the general population. (AMD Alliance International.)
  • AMD is characterized by loss of central vision, usually in both eyes. The person may experience a dark or empty spot in the center of their vision, distorted, wavy vertical lines or blurry text.
  • AMD may account for up to 30 percent of all bilateral blindness among Caucasian Americans. Blindness due to macular degeneration is extremely rare in African Americans, for reasons not well understood.
  • There are two forms of AMD – “wet” (exudative) and “dry.” The dry form is much more common, but the wet form is responsible for the vast majority of severe vision loss caused by the disease.
  • In the wet form, tiny blood vessels begin to grow rapidly beneath the retina, often breaking and leaking blood and fluid. Wet AMD, although more devastating can often be effectively controlled through laser treatment, such as photodynamic therapy and photocoagulation. Laser treatment is not effective for dry AMD.
  • A study by the National Eye Institute (NEI) offers some hope for people with moderate and advanced stages of AMD. The study suggests that pharmacological-level doses of zinc, vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene reduce the risk of progression of moderate and advanced cases of AMD.
  • While these supplements may slow the progression of the disease, they are not a cure. It is important to check with your physician before taking these supplements.
  • Diets high in fatty, processed baked goods can worsen the condition. Conversely, research suggests that diets rich in certain antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin can help protect your eyes against AMD. Eating dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach may help slow the progression.
  • Low-vision rehabilitation can help people with AMD make the most of their remaining sight. Low-vision aids such as magnifying glasses, closed circuit televisions and large-screen computers can help people maintain the lifestyles they are accustomed to.

From the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary:

  • Intake of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish increases the risk of macular degeneration. More than 1 serving/week of beef, pork, or lamb as a main dish is associated with a 35% increased risk of macular degeneration as compared with less than 3 servings/month.
  • A high intake of margarine is also significantly related to an increased risk of macular degeneration.
  • One serving per day of high-fat dairy food (whole milk, ice cream, hard cheese, or butter) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 1.91 times.
  • One serving per day of meat food (hamburger, hot dogs, processed meat, bacon, beef as a sandwich, or beef as a main dish) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 2.09 times.
  • One serving per day of processed baked goods (commercial pie, cake, cookies, and potato chips) increases risk of macular degeneration progression by 2.42 times.
  • People who eat fish more than 4 times/week have a lower risk of macular degeneration than those who consume it less than 3 times/month.
  •  Eating 1 serving per day of any type of nut reduces the risk of progression of macular degeneration by 40%. This beneficial effect complements other literature reporting a protective role for nuts and cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.


  • Smokers are up to four times more likely than nonsmokers to develop AMD according to a report in the British Journal of Medicine from the public health experts at the University of Manchester.  Smoking is known to impede the effects of antioxidants and to reduce the macular pigment density.  Oxidants can damage the retina.
  • The World Health Organization names smoking as the only modifiable risk factor for AMD.
  • There is evidence that the likelihood of developing macular degeneration will reduce if one were to quit smoking. If you quit smoking, then 1 year of no-smoking will reduce the likelihood of you developing macular degeneration by 6.7%. After another 5 years of no-smoking the risk is further reduced by another 5%, and after yet another 5 years of no-smoking by an extra 4.2%. The protective effect of quitting smoking seems to be somewhat more pronounced in the first years after stopping smoking. (Neuner et al Ann Epidemiol. 2007 May 24).

According to

  • Smoking enhances the generation of free radicals which causes cellular damage.
  • Smoking decreases the levels of antioxidants (which protect against free radical damage) in the blood circulation, the aqueous humor (the clear liquid between the cornea and the lens) and the tissue surrounding the eye and retina.
  • Smoking causes a reduction in macular pigment density in the fovea (center of the macula). Macular pigment protects the macula from UV and blue light damage.
  • Smoking reduces the amount of oxygenin the blood so that there is less oxygen being fed to the macula.
  • The tar in cigarettes triggers the formation of deposits and thickening in the retinathat cause age-related macular degeneration, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers.
  • "Our group also previously demonstrated that nicotine makes active wet macular degeneration worse. This is important because this implies that patients with active wet AMD should not smoke or use nicotine replacement therapies," states Ivan Suñer, MD.
  • The study done by Dr. Suñer also concluded that heavy exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause these changes.
  • Smoking impedes the circulation of bloodto the eye and retina and damages the delicate blood vessels inside your eye.
  • Studies in mice showed that smoking has a role in cell injury to the retinal pigment epithelium.