The role of nutrition in reducing glaucoma risk

What should or shouldn’t we eat to reduce the risk of glaucoma? Despite conflicting opinions on the subject, here is some advice you could consider offering patients, who may be at particular risk of developing the condition.

A poor diet and glaucoma risk

One of the measures of glaucoma risk is elevated intraocular eye pressure, and your lifestyle can contribute to this. Research shows that caffeine can cause a rise in eye pressure, lasting at least 90 minutes after consumption. For this reason, it is recommended excessive caffeine consumption is reduced, either by cutting out caffeine or switching to decaffeinated drinks.

Oxidative stress is thought to contribute to glaucoma, as well as conditions like AMD and cataracts, and this can be caused by higher body weight. Obesity is linked to inflammation, which increases the risk of oxidative stress. If a person is obese due to a poor diet high in fat and processed foods, for example, they are also less likely to have important antioxidants in their diet, which protect the eyes, and the body as a whole.

Can antioxidants protect against glaucoma?

In general, it is thought that certain foods can protect the eyes, this is where the myth that plenty of carrots (vitamin K) can improve vision. While the latter isn’t true, some nutrients can benefit the eyes.

Several large research studies have shown decreased glaucoma risk when consuming green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collard greens. These foods are rich in antioxidants which protect the eyes from oxidative stress, which in turn can contribute to glaucoma.

A healthy, balanced diet

There is some evidence that dietary changes can decrease glaucoma risk, but it is not as strong as the link between, for example, age-related macular degeneration and lutein supplementation.

Currently, the recommended advice to give is for patients to follow a healthy and balanced diet. This will help to protect eye health as much as is possible, while also protecting cardiovascular health too. Patients should also be advised to reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption where it is a concern and quit smoking – as it is proven to increase the risk of sight loss.

The Mediterranean diet also shows promise for eye health, and several studies have shown that it contains high levels of antioxidants. This diet, rich in vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and fish, with a small amount of alcohol, can protect against oxidative stress.

Lastly, regular screening is a must. This is the only way to properly monitor eye health and to assess a patient for risk factors like lifestyle and family history. A person under the right care can be treated early if they are at risk of glaucoma, or if the condition is detected in the earlier stages.

Read more about reaching high-risk groups for glaucoma screening, or download our free whitepaper on screening for the condition.