Eating Too Much Sugar? Why Your Vision Suffers
Cataracts is a medical condition in which the lens of our eyes become cloudy. This cloudiness obscures our vision, requires surgery to repair, and can lead to blindness. In fact, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the United States. (1)
What are the early warning signs of cataracts?
- Vision becomes cloudy or blurry
- Poor night vision
- Colors appear muted
- Lights seem too bright and there may be a halo around lights
- Double vision which may go away as the cataract grows
- Glasses often need the prescription changed
These symptoms can also be a sign of other eye problems. We should consult an eye doctor if we have any of these problems.
Research suggests that there is no surefire way to avoid cataracts but there are ways to significantly lower our risk. First and foremost is limiting foods that spike blood sugar as high blood sugar increases our odds of developing cataracts and influences how fast they progress.
Once diagnosed with cataracts, most individuals will be booked for surgery. Cataract surgery removes our original lens and replaces it with an artificial one. This surgery is done under local anesthetic and most individuals recover within 4-6 weeks. 4-12% of individuals who undergo the surgery will go on to develop another condition called ‘secondary cataracts’. And individuals who have developed cataracts and cannot afford or cannot access surgery may go blind. (1)
Interestingly, research from as far back as the 1950’s shows that rats with the highest blood sugar levels developed cataracts and developed them more quickly. This led the lead researcher, John Patterson, to posit the hypothesis that lower blood sugar levels in rats would slow down or prevent the onset of cataracts. And bingo, he was right! In 1952 he published an article sharing his discovery. (3)
This research was corroborated in a 2003 article in Ophthalmologica entitled: “Dietary Sugar and Salt Represent Real Risk Factors for Cataract Development”. It stated the following: “Dietary sugar and salt represent risk factors of human cataract” (4)
It seems that high blood sugar and high blood pressure damage the eyes in three ways. These conditions cause proteins to clump in the lens contributing to the cloudiness. They damage the blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to the eyes, and they cause swelling in the lens of our eyes which places osmotic pressure on the lens.
There may be other ways sugar (via hyperglycemia and hypertension) impacts our eyes leading to cataracts but these are top of the list. This subject definitely requires more investigation.
In addition to avoiding sugar, there is research to suggest that the consumption of vitamins and minerals can protect our eyes from cataracts. Brightly colored fruits and veggies are superstars in that department. In terms of supplementation, Vit D, C and E are recommended. (5)
Being able to see clearly is something we might be taking for granted right now, but if we are eating a high sugar diet, we shouldn’t! Cataracts are just one of many ways sugar damages our eyes (and potentially permanently). Macular degeneration and glaucoma are two more.
So, in short, here is another reason to ditch sugar and eat whole foods.
(3) John W Patterson in The American Journal of Physiology from December 31, 1952 https://doi.org/10.1152/ajplegacy.19126.96.36.199 - “Effect of Lowered Blood Sugar on the Development of Diabetes Cataracts.”
(4) Ophthalmologica The European Retina Journal — https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/70640 “Dietary Sugar and Salt Represent Real Risk Factors for Cataract Development” by Veromann S. Sünter A. Tasa G. Juronen E. Panov A. Pastak M. Kaljurand K.
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