How Nutrition Affects Vision
Good nutrition requires a diet with a healthy mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Probably no part of our diet has been as misused or misunderstood as our requirement for vitamins and minerals.
Protein is needed for the building blocks and chemical machinery of our bodies; carbohydrates are needed for immediate fuel and energy; fats are needed for long-term storage of fuel and energy. Vitamins are organic compounds that our bodies cannot manufacture and are essential for maintaining good health. Minerals, in small amounts, are required for the body’s enzyme system (enzymes assist chemical reactions such as the breakdown of food into energy).
Macular degeneration is damage or breakdown of the macula of the eye. The macula is a small area at the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details clearly. The most common form of macular problem is age-related macular degeneration. Exactly why it develops is not known, and no treatment has been uniformly effective. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe visual loss in persons over 65 years of age.
Normal chemical reactions caused by the effect of light on the macula may activate oxygen and cause macular damage over a long time. Some vitamins and minerals function as antioxidants, chemicals which work against this activated oxygen, and perhaps protect the macula from damage. Some experts claim that Vitamins C and E, Selenium and Carotenoids can help slow down macular degeneration and other aging factors. Carotenoids are especially found in green, leafy vegetables such as: spinach, celery, broccoli and collard greens.
Zinc, one of the most common trace minerals in our body, is highly concentrated in the eye, particularly in the retina and tissues surrounding the macula. Zinc is necessary for the action of over 100 enzymes, including the chemical reactions in the retina. Some doctors think that supplements of zinc in the diet may slow down the process of macular degeneration. It is possible that too much zinc may interfere with other trace minerals such as copper.
The first step in overall health is to choose the right parents. A balance diet is important. Vitamins and minerals are commonly given as supplements to the diet in amounts determined by recommended daily allowances. These supplemental dosages cause no apparent harm and are commonly available. But large doses of vitamins, called therapeutic doses, in amounts many times the daily recommended allowances, may not be completely safe. Research is still in progress about nutrition and macular degeneration.