Purpose of review
There is a rising interest in the impact of diet on the pathogenesis of common ophthalmic conditions. The purpose of this review is to summarize the potential preventive and therapeutic power of dietary interventions described in recent basic science and epidemiological literature.
Basic science investigations have elucidated a variety of mechanisms by which diet may impact ophthalmic disease, particularly through its action on chronic oxidative stress, inflammation and macular pigmentation. Epidemiologic investigations have shown the real-world influence of diet on the incidence and progression of a number of ophthalmic diseases, particularly cataract, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. A large observational cohort study found a 20% reduction in the incidence of cataract among vegetarians compared with nonvegetarians. Two recent systematic reviews found that higher adherence to Mediterranean dietary patterns was associated with a decreased risk of progression of AMD to later stages. Finally, large meta-analyses found that patients following plant-based and Mediterranean diets had significant reductions of mean haemoglobin A1c scores and incidence of diabetic retinopathy as compared with controls.
There is a significant and growing body of evidence that Mediterranean diet and plant-based diets – those that maximize fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts; and that minimize animal products and processed foods – help prevent vision loss from cataract, AMD and diabetic retinopathy. These diets may hold benefits for other ophthalmic conditions, as well. Nevertheless, there is a need for further randomized, controlled and longitudinal studies in this area.