Can an unbalanced diet negatively affect your eye health?
09/16/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

An unhealthy diet is one of the leading causes of disease. In a recent study in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers found that it can even increase the risk of eye diseases which can lead to blindness.

In this study, researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. discovered how poor nutrition, including high fat and cholesterol-enriched food, can damage the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the eye. They also found a potential new treatment through which these cells could be saved before diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) develop.

AMD is an eye disease that can lead to loss of vision. It is irreversible and is caused by factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, or excess weight. It affects the central vision, which is used for reading and recognizing faces. This condition is one of the leading causes of blindness globally.

When AMD develops, RPE cells become damaged. As a result, they become less equipped to support the photoreceptors of the eyes, which are the cells in the retina responding to light. When photoreceptors die, permanent loss of vision occurs.

For the study, the researchers looked at how disease-causing pathways triggered by poor nutrition could affect RPE cells. They determined how healthy RPE cells break down by-products generated by daily activities of photoreceptors through the waste disposal system of the cells.

The researchers found that healthy RPE cells can cope with the changing condition in the aging eye. However, an unhealthy diet, particularly a high-fat diet, can interrupt the breakdown process in RPE cells, in turn causing long-term damage and, eventually, blindness. In addition, the researchers identified that some lysosomes appeared to remain unharmed even in such stressed RPE. This suggested that damaged cells could be saved to prevent eventual vision loss. (Related: Tips for boosting eye health and avoiding macular degeneration.)


"Our next step is to find out whether this type of damage can be reversed through better nutrition and if stressed or damaged RPE cells can possibly be rescued. Potential new therapies developed along these lines could offer new treatments for some AMD patients," said Dr. Arjuna Ratnayaka, the leader of the study.

Foods to eat for healthy eyes

If you’re currently following an unhealthy diet, now is the time to start switching to a healthier one. To help you out, here are 10 best foods for your eyes to add to your diet:

  1. Beef – Beef contains high amounts of zinc, which has been associated with better eye health in the long run. The mineral can also help slow down age-related vision loss and AMD.
  2. Carrots – Carrots offer vitamin A and beta-carotene, which gives the vegetables their orange color. Vitamin A, on the other hand, plays an important role in vision. It is a part of a protein called rhodopsin, which aids the retina to absorb light.
  3. Citrus fruits – Citrus fruits, such as grapefruits, lemons, and oranges, provide high levels of vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help protect the eyes from age-related eye damage.
  4. Eggs – Eggs are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin – both of which are known to be beneficial for the eyes and prevent age-related vision loss. In addition, eggs contain good amounts of vitamins C and E and zinc. The antioxidant vitamin E can fight against age-related eye damage.
  5. Fatty fish – Fatty fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient known to improve eye health. Some of the best sources of omega-3s include anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna.
  6. Leafy green vegetables – Leafy greens are loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin. You can also get good amounts of vitamin C from leafy greens like collards, kale, and spinach.
  7. Nuts and legumes – Nuts offer high amounts of omega-3s, as well as vitamin E. Brazil nuts, cashews, lentils, peanuts, and walnuts are some of the best nuts you can add to your diet.
  8. Seeds – Similar to nuts and legumes, nuts are rich in omega-3s and vitamin E. Seeds particularly rich in omega-3 include chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds.
  9. Sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes are also loaded with beta-carotene like carrots. These sweet tubers also provide good amounts of the antioxidant vitamin E.
  10. Water – Water is essential to life and eye health. Drinking plenty of it can prevent dehydration, thereby reducing the symptoms of dry eyes.

For more news and stories on how diets affect your health, visit

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