Food and eye health
Mackerel can maintain your macula. Salmon and spinach could save your sight. And pistachios help preserve pin-sharp vision.
That was the message from Professor Bamini Gopinath – an epidemiologist and MDFA Research Grant recipient whose research focuses on the links between AMD and lifestyle factors like diet – when she joined MDFA’s webinar series.
“We know that having a genetic risk of AMD can increase the chances of the disease developing by around four times,” Professor Gopinath told the MDFA webinar.
“What we also now know is that those individuals who carry these risk mutations, if they have regular consumption of fish and zinc-containing foods such as meat, spinach and nuts, they can reduce their risk of developing this condition close to those levels of individuals who don’t carry these genetic risk mutations.”
Eat for your eyes
While smoking is the strongest modifiable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diet is second on the list.
As well as cutting the risk of being diagnosed with AMD, nutrition can slow the progression of the disease if you’re already living with it.
“AMD patients should be aiming for increasing their consumption of dark green leafy vegetables,” Professor Gopinath said.
“They should be aiming to eat fresh fruit daily and choosing low glycemic index or low GI foods rather than high GI foods and eating fish at least twice a week, as well as eating a handful of nuts two to three times per week.
“So essentially AMD patients should be aiming to have a healthy and balanced diet to ensure that they get the right amount of nutrients to maintain optimal macular health.”
What foods are good for your macula?
Professor Gopinath recommends the following foods to reduce your risk of AMD, whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with the disease.
Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, plus non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans and peas. Professor Gopinath said: “Lutein and zeaxanthin are really one of the most important antioxidants and they belong to a group of antioxidants known as carotenoids, which are naturally found in the macula. And dark green leafy vegetables are an essential source of lutein and zeaxanthin so as a result they’re really essential to maintaining good eye health.” Eggs and raw pistachio nuts are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.
Fruits high in Vitamin C like oranges, strawberries and kiwi fruits. Professor Gopinath said: “All adults should be aiming for a rainbow of fruits and vegetables as part of their habitual diet to ensure that they’re getting an adequate amount of nutrients to maintain optimal macular health.”
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. Professor Gopinath said: “Fish and seafood should be eaten at least twice a week and they are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and these fatty acids are also important nutrients for macular health.”
Low GI foods like wholegrain bread, cereal and pasta, plus muesli and oats. Look for the low GI symbol on packaged products. Professor Gopinath said: “Low GI foods compared to high GI foods are those that are digested and absorbed at a slower rate and low GI foods as a result increase blood sugar levels or insulin levels at a much slower and lower level than high GI foods. People who eat more low GI foods rather than high GI foods have a lower risk of developing a range of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and they also have a lower risk of developing AMD in the longer term.”