A new study finds a diet rich in protein and healthy fats and low in carbohydrates could reduce the risk for glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness.
Glaucoma is associated with abnormally high eye pressure due to a reduced ability of the eye to regulate fluid drainage. Poor eye fluid drainage causes elevated pressure, which can damage the optic nerve over time. This is known as primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), the most common form of glaucoma in the United States.
According to the research from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing proteins and plant-based fats can lower the risk of POAG with early central vision loss by 20 percent.
Plant-Based Diet Helps Prevent POAG
The researchers analyzed data from more than 185,000 participants of three cohort studies from 1976 to 2017. The researchers surmised that substituting protein and fat for carbohydrates would help maintain optic nerve function.
The participants answered health-related questions and completed food frequency questionnaires every two to four years. The team looked for patterns in carbohydrate intake across plant-based and animal-based fats and proteins, as well as other sources.
Plant-based sources gave more favorable results in preventing POAG than animal-based sources for a low-carbohydrate diet.
Diet Cannot Reverse Glaucoma
Dr. Louis R. Pasquale, co-corresponding author and deputy chair for ophthalmology research for the Mount Sinai Health System, said, "It's important to note that a low-carbohydrate diet won't stop glaucoma progression if you already have it, but it may be a means to preventing glaucoma in high-risk groups. If more patients in these high-risk categories, including those with a family history of glaucoma, adhered to this diet, there might be fewer cases of vision loss."
Dr. Pasquale asserts a low carbohydrate diet is therapeutic for many other conditions such as epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. However, more research is necessary, as this was the first study looking at how diet relates to POAG development, and it was an observational study and not a clinical trial.
What is Your Glaucoma Risk?
Did you know certain individuals are at increased risk for glaucoma? Here are some of the risk factors for glaucoma:
- Family history of glaucoma
- 45 years of age or older
- African American
- History of elevated inner eye pressure
- History of steroid use
More than three million Americans have glaucoma, but only half are aware they have the disease. Glaucoma, aptly nicknamed "the sneak thief of sight," often does not have symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to get an early diagnosis before permanent eye damage occurs.
Make an Appointment for a Comprehensive Eye Exam
There is no cure for glaucoma, but your eye doctor can detect glaucoma early if you stay current with your annual comprehensive eye exams. An eye exam is more than just an evaluation of your vision. It offers a window into your overall health. Call an ophthalmologist today to schedule your annual eye exam.