Vision, like smell, taste, touch and hearing, is easy to take for granted. It is only when it is in decline that its contribution becomes truly apparent. Although vision loss is inevitable, for most people blindness is not.
In fact, you can actually avoid blindness by leading a healthy lifestyle.
The top of the pile is getting enough vitamin A into your diet, as the vitamin can directly cause blindness.
In fact, vitamin A deficiency is the “leading cause of preventable blindness” in children worldwide, warns the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Vitamin A plays an important role in your vision. As the AAO explains, to see the full spectrum of light, your eye must produce certain pigments for your retina to function properly.
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The health body continues: “Vitamin A deficiency stops the production of these pigments, leading to night blindness.
“Your eye also needs vitamin A to nourish other parts of your eye, including the cornea.”
He adds, “Without enough vitamin A, your eyes can’t produce enough moisture to keep them properly lubricated.”
How to stock up on vitamin A
Good sources of vitamin A (retinol) include:
- oily fish
- Low Fat Enriched Spreads
- Milk and yogurt
- Liver and liver products like liver pate – this is a particularly rich source of vitamin A, so you may get too much vitamin A if you consume it more than once a week (if you are pregnant , you should avoid eating liver or liver products).
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“If you take supplements containing vitamin A, ensure that your daily intake of foods and supplements does not exceed 1.5 mg (1,500 µg),” advises the NHS.
Other dietary causes of blindness
There is also strong evidence that eating too much “junk food” can precipitate vision decline.
Clinician-scientists from Bristol Medical School and Bristol Eye Hospital looked at the case of a teenager who first saw his GP complaining of fatigue.
The link between his nutritional status and his vision was not established until much later, and by then his visual impairment had become permanent.
Upon further investigation, the researchers concluded that the patient’s “junk food” diet and limited intake of nutritional vitamins and minerals led to the development of nutritional optic neuropathy.
Nutritional optic neuropathy is a dysfunction of the optic nerve important to vision. The condition is reversible, if caught early.
But, left untreated, it can lead to permanent structural damage to the optic nerve and blindness.
Dr Denize Atan, lead author of the study and Consultant Lecturer in Ophthalmology at Bristol Medical School and Clinical Lead for Neuro-Ophthalmology at Bristol Eye Hospital, said: “Our vision has such an impact on the quality of life, education, employment, social interactions, and mental health. This case highlights the impact of diet on visual and physical health, and the fact that caloric intake and BMI are not reliable indicators of nutritional status.