New research published this month shows that fewer older Americans are developing macular degeneration — a major cause of vision loss and even blindness in older men and women. And the study suggests that a healthier diet — including leafy green vegetables and fish — could be one of the factors responsible for the decrease — from 9.4 percent to 6.5 percent — in the prevalence of the disease among people over age 40.
The study in the journal The Archives of Ophthalmology was just the latest in a growing body of research linking diet to eye health and the prevention of some troubling eye conditions.
Steven Pratt, M.D., the author of SuperHealth, says foods can help defend against not only macular degeneration but also a number of vision disorders including cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens that distorts vision, and glaucoma, an eye condition in which excessive fluid in the eyeball creates pressure that damages the optic nerve.
The antioxidants and nutrients that are linked to a lower risk of these eye ailments include lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins C and E.
Here are the foods — rich in these protective substances — that appear to make the difference when it comes to eye health.
"Spinach is the king of the green leafies," says Pratt. But other good greens include kale and Swiss chard, plus turnip, mustard and collard greens. These leafy greens are excellent for the eye because they're rich in lutein, a carotenoid compound that is found in colorful fruits and vegetables and that protect cells from damage. A diet rich in spinach helps shield your macula — the center of the retina — from cell damage that can cause both age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Certainly, if you have macular degeneration already, you want a lot of spinach in your diet — and if you have a family history of the disease, you should be loading up on that vegetable.