Myopia: Cutting Down on Carbs Encourage 20/20 Vision

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You may have warned your child or grandchild in the past not to sit too near the television or computer screen, or they’ll end up needing glasses. Yet, without realising it you may be increasing their risk of becoming short-sighted (a condition known as myopia)… simply by giving them too many ‘treats’ in the way of sweets and chocolate.

A high-protein diet can slow the progression of myopia

In the last 200 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of myopia in developed countries. The condition now affects about 30 per cent of people in the UK. An international team, working at Colorado State University in America and Sydney University in Australia, believe this could largely be due to the typical Western diet, which is high in carbohydrates.

Diets high in sugar and refined starches, such as processed breads and cereals, rapidly increase your blood sugar levels. Your pancreas then responds by pumping out more insulin. It’s the resulting elevated levels of insulin that researchers believe could be having a harmful effect on the way children’s eyes develop.

High insulin reduces the amount of a protein called ‘binding protein-3’ being produced. ‘Binding protein-3’ helps to co-ordinate the way the eyeball and its lens grow. Light hitting the lens of the eye is focused as an image on the back of the eyeball, or retina. We unconsciously change our focus between near and distant objects by using tiny muscles that change the shape of the eyeball, so that the image is always in the right place.

But if the eyeball grows too long, due to a lack of ‘binding protein-3’, it can no longer flatten itself enough to focus a sharp image on the retina. The result is myopia – causing distant objects to become blurred, while near objects remain clear.

Researchers have established that children who eat high carbohydrate diets are most at risk of developing myopia. However, the progress of the condition has been shown to be slower in children whose protein consumption is increased.

Having diabetes or being overweight could seriously compromise your eyesight. It’s not only children who are at risk. This new research fits with existing evidence that shows you’re more likely to develop myopia if you’re overweight or have adult-onset diabetes. Both of which are associated with high blood sugar and high insulin levels.

Diabetics are also at risk of far worse damage to their eyes from a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Over time, diabetes affects the circulatory system of the retina, so that your arteries become weakened and leak, forming small, dot-like haemorrhages. These leaking vessels often lead to swelling in your retina and decreased vision.

As the disease progresses, blood may leak into the eyeball, which reduces your vision further still. Diabetes sufferers who take active measures to control their blood sugar levels, such as following a low-carbohydrate diet, have been found to significantly reduce their risk of diabetic retinopathy.

High blood sugar levels can damage your eyesight in another way, too, even if you’re not diabetic. Cataracts are caused by sugar molecules attaching themselves to proteins in the lens of your eye, in a process called glycosylation. This causes the proteins to twist, bend over and clump together and as a result your lens becomes cloudy and less elastic.

Take steps right now to protect your vision

Cataracts diminish the quality of life of many elderly people, but you can protect yourself against them by keeping to a low-carbohydrate diet and taking antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and E, which inhibit glycosylation. Cutting down on the amount of carbohydrates you eat will help prevent myopia and diabetic retinopathy too.

Make sure you limit the amount of sweet and starchy ‘treats’ you may be giving your children or grandchildren. They’re not just damaging their teeth, but could be damaging their eyesight as well. Children’s diets that are high in pasta, potatoes or white bread can be just as bad, so include more protein foods and fresh vegetables instead.


Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.

Sources:

Acta. Ophth. Scand., 80: 125, 2002

New Scientist, 2337: 9, 6 April 2002

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