Low-carb, high-vegetable fat & protein diet could lower vision loss risk

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A long-term diet low in carbohydrates but high in fat and vegetable protein may decrease the risk of the most common type of glaucoma, according to a new study from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE).

At-risk individuals adhering to such dietary restrictions may reduce their risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) with early paracentral visual loss by 20%. The study’s results were published in the Eye Journal on July 22.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., with POAG being the most common form.

Patients often experience minimal or no symptoms until the disease progresses and leads to vision loss.

Louis R. Pasquale, MD, co-corresponding author of the study, noted that while a low-carb diet wouldn’t halt glaucoma progression in existing cases, it could serve as a preventative measure in high-risk groups.

Previous research has shown the neuroprotective effects of a ketogenic diet (low in carbohydrates and high in fat).

Under a ketogenic diet, the brain uses ketone bodies, produced as the body metabolizes fats, as a major energy source, which could slow down neuronal degeneration.

This current study sought to determine whether a low-carb diet could benefit the optic nerve, which has high energy requirements and may be affected by mitochondrial dysfunction in glaucoma cases.

The study involved a large-scale meta-analysis of 185,000 adult participants from three large U.S. studies conducted between 1976 and 2017.

Patients who followed a diet of increased plant-based fat and protein coupled with low-carb intake were associated with a 20% lower risk of developing a subtype of POAG with early paracentral visual field loss, as compared to those in the high-carb intake group.

No association between POAG and a low-carb diet that did not account for the source of protein or fat was found, nor was any association between glaucoma and an animal-based low-carb diet discovered.

This was an observational study and not a clinical trial, so more research is required.

“The next step is to use artificial intelligence to objectively quantify the paracentral visual loss in our glaucoma cases and repeat the analysis,” said Dr. Pasquale.

It’s also crucial to identify patients with the genetic makeup of primary open-angle glaucoma who might benefit from a low-carb diet. “This dietary pattern may be protective only in people with a certain genetic makeup.” The study was published in Eye.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about breakfast linked to better blood vessel health, and drinking too much coffee could harm people with high blood pressure.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about unhealthy habits that may increase high blood pressure risk, and results showing plant-based protein foods may help reverse diabetes.

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