Leafy greens can offset glaucoma risk, a recent study featured in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology has revealed.
Research was conducted by a team of experts, under the guidance of Jae Hee Kang, assistant professor medicine and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
An extensive analysis focused on medical data collected during the Nurses’ Health Study (between 1984 and 1984) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (between 1986 and 2012).
Out of a total of approximately 105,000 participants, scientists surveyed those who were aged 40 and upwards, and who were considered in good health, showing no signs of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).
This eye disease, nicknamed “the silent thief of sight”, affects around 1% of the American population, being especially common among those over the age of 50.
The insidious disorder, which is the most prevalent type of glaucoma, causes ocular pressure to progressively increase without the individual exhibiting any symptoms whatsoever, until optic nerve cells start dying out, leading to the emergence of blind spots.
These initially disrupt peripheral vision, appearing beyond the central visual field, until they eventually become more and more common, resulting in central vision loss as well. Left untreated, the condition can culminate in blindness, among 10% of those who develop it in the first place.
The aim of the study authors was to determine if there was any link between diet and glaucoma, which eventually affected 1,483 of the volunteers.
In order to limit the scope of their research and make it more easily quantifiable, scientists concentrated on the amounts of nitrate included in each of the participants’ daily diet.
Dietary nitrate is especially common in root vegetables like beet and spinach, and in other leafy greens like celery and rucola.
Prior research had alluded that such compounds can be beneficial in regulating blood circulation, and the aim of this new analysis was to see if such properties could impact the onset of glaucoma.
Experts discovered that those who had consumed around a cup and a half of green leafy vegetables per day, maximizing their intake of nitrate, dimished their likelihood of suffering from primary open-angle glaucoma by a around 20 to 30%.
The greatest benefits, consisting in curbing risks by as much as 50%, were among study participants that were suffering from early scotomas (blind spots) in the paracentral field of vision.
While the study reveals an association, and an actual causation hasn’t yet been confirmed, scientists still believe that their observations offer important clues into the ways in which glaucoma could be prevented or combatted.
Therefore, they believe follow-up research should be conducted, in order to test these preliminary findings more thoroughly and extensively.
Meanwhile, The American Academy of Ophtalmology urges people aged 40 and upwards to have annual screennings for glaucoma, and other similar eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and caract.
Early diagnosis can be instrumental in keeping the condition under control, so as to avoid or at least postpone vision loss.
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