Why a Poor Diet Can Cause Eye Problems

Girl working at a computer eating junk food and drinking cola.

“You are what you eat,” is a scientific fact. People need many types of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to keep their bodies healthy. Without them, people may develop illnesses or other health issues if they do not eat nutritious meals, including serious vision conditions. Here is why a poor diet can cause eye problems.

Well-balanced diet

For years, medical experts have talked about the importance of eating a well-balanced diet for a healthy supply of the right vitamins and nutrients. They advise people to watch the number of foods rich in fats, sugars and carbohydrates. Researchers have found that poor diets can cause obesity, heart disease, cancer and can damage the nervous system, including the eyes.

Vision loss

In 2019, the medical story of a 17-year-old boy who went blind because of his diet was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal. His eye problems developed over several years. In addition to feeling tired, blood tests showed he had anemia and low levels of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy cells. Although the teen received injections of B12 and doctors continued to monitor his medical condition, he developed vision loss and other vision problems.

At age 17, he was diagnosed with 20/200 vision in both eyes, classifying him as legally blind in both eyes. The doctors found he had optic neuropathy, or damage to the optic nerve, which connects to the back of the eye to the brain. An analysis of the teen’s diet discovered that he ate only fries, chips, white bread, and processed ham slices and sausage. He did not like the texture of other foods, a condition called avoidant restrictive food intake disorder.

Blood work showed that even though he received injections of vitamin B12, he still needed more of the vitamin, along with copper, selenium and vitamin D. Vitamin deficiencies can cause toxic buildup that is a byproduct of metabolism, and damage nerve cells.

Eye problems

Eye problems can lead to vision loss, which cannot be corrected or reversed. While treating the 17-year-old boy, doctors found a link between selective eating disorders and body weight or shape. Although doctors could not change the teen’s vision loss, they prescribed nutritional supplements to prevent eye problems from worsening.

For good, long-term vision, the study identified the need for people to take care of their eyes by eating nutritiously. They also need to schedule regular eye exams, so the doctor can evaluate vision healthiness and detect signs of medical conditions, before they get out of control.

Nutrient-rich foods for eyes

Medical experts encourage people to consume eight foods rich in nutrients to boost eye health, including fresh water:

  1. Fish

    Studies show that omega-3-rich fish oil can help reverse dry eye. The best fish to eat includes tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring.

  1. Seeds and nuts

    These crunchy treats contain high amounts of omega-3 vitamin E. The best seeds and nuts to eat for eye health are chia, flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts. Lentils are another excellent source of omega-3 and vitamin E.

  1. Leafy green vegetables

    Spinach, kale and collards contain lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin C that help keep eyes healthy.

  1. Citrus fruits

    Healthy eyes need vitamin C to fight age-related eye damage. Think lemons, oranges and grapefruit.

  1. Carrots and sweet potatoes

    Both of these orange-colored vegetables are rich in beta carotene, which helps the body make vitamin A. Carrots also are naturally good sources of vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin E. This antioxidant protects eye cells from free radical molecules that can damage healthy eye tissue.

  1. Eggs

    A good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, eggs help lower the risk of age-related vision loss. Eggs contain high amounts of vitamins C and E and zinc.

  1. Beef

    Eating lean cuts of beef can support eye health. Beef has high levels of zinc, which can slow the development of age-related vision loss and macular degeneration. Chicken breast and pork loin also contain zinc, but have lower levels of this essential mineral.

  1. Water

    Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day to prevent dehydration and reduce symptoms of dry eye.

Most people take their vision for granted. They assume that every time they open their eyes, they will see normally. Often, people put off seeing the eye doctor because of the cost. That’s a problem. The good news is vision coverage does not have to be expensive. Learn more about individual vision plans.

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