A new study suggests a diet rich in plant-based fats and proteins and low in carbohydrates could reduce the risk for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness.
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve and affects more than 60.5 million people globally. Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of the disease and is associated with abnormally high eye pressure due to a reduced ability of the eye to regulate fluid drainage.
According to new research from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, reducing carbohydrate intake and increasing plant-based proteins and fats can lower the risk of POAG with early central vision loss by 20 percent.
Plant-Based Diet Helps Prevent POAG
Researchers analyzed data from more than 185,000 participants of three cohort studies between 1976 and 2017. The researchers hypothesized 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
- History of elevated inner eye pressure
- African American
- History of steroid use
Take a moment to complete the Glaucoma Risk Assessment to determine if you are at elevated risk for glaucoma.
Call Your Ophthalmologist for a Comprehensive Eye Exam
There is no cure for POAG, but your eye doctor can detect glaucoma early if you stay current with your annual comprehensive eye exams.
Glaucoma rarely presents symptoms in the early stages, so schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor to discuss your vision health. Make annual eye exams a part of your preventive care so you can enjoy clear vision for years to come.