March 02, 2013
2 min read

Typical US diet increases eye disease risk

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ATLANTA – U.S. citizens are eating more carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which results in increased inflammation, specifically, obesity, diabetes, risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and retinopathy, according to a speaker here at SECO.

Stuart Richer, OD, PhD, FAAO, offered attendees a number of recommendations for reducing the inflammation that results from an unhealthy diet and aging.

"Vitamin D is the body’s steroid, and we lack it because we’re advised to avoid sunlight," Richer said. "Sunlight is important at any age to produce vitamin D, and it’s more difficult for African-American patients to get enough, so I always check their vitamin D status."

Stuart Richer, OD, PhD, FAAO

Stuart Richer

He added that acid blockers also inhibit the amount of vitamin D you can get from food.

Richer said he asks patients if they have fish in their diet and if they eat anything that grows on a tree, bush or in the ground.

"Fish is good for your eyes and your brain; you need the anti-inflammatory effect," he said. "And if we have 35% of our plate full of vegetables, we wouldn’t need calcium supplements."

Balancing fats is key, Richer said. "The omega-3s are anti-inflammatory; the omega-6s are mostly pro-inflammatory," he said. "You need a ratio of 1:1 to 1:3. However, the typical American diet is 1:15 to 1:25."

Fish oil increases retinal and brain function, Richer said. "The first thing I do with my dry eye patients is I see how much fish they eat," he said. "We can handle dry eye and blepharitis just with fish oil consumption."

Two low-dose fish oil capsules should be prescribed for prevention; three to four for a therapeutic amount.

Richer also addressed the impact of sleep on inflammation.

"It’s actually worse to sleep too much than too little," he said. "You’re not burning any calories and you’re becoming more inflamed. Don’t sit in a rocking chair and get 10 to 12 hours of sleep. Get up, get moving, get sunlight. It’s not about rest."

Richer touted the benefits of green tea, which he said is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It reduces mortality risk and is an antibacterial, antidiabetic and antiviral.

Lastly, he promoted the benefits of red wine.

"There are many substances in red wine; it’s like a drug store," he said.

It includes resveratrol, which is anti-cancer, neuroprotective and anti-aging, he said.

"It not only works against VEGF, it decreases inflammation, decreases blood clotting and increases vasodilation," among other things, he said.

He cautioned that women should have no more than one glass of red wine per day; men can have two.

"More than one glass a day increases breast cancer risk in women," he said. "And it’s better to drink it with food to get maximum benefit."