Shortsightedness is estimated to affect 5 billion people by the year 2050 according to recent studies – nearly half of the world’s projected population. The study, published in the medical journal known as Ophthalmology analysed a wide range of existing research on nearsightedness from 1995 onwards. Based on the trends they analysed, the authors estimated that myopia rates will rise from 23% to 49% by the year 2050.
These projections were based on data from The United Nations and were calculated by looking at different countries and their pace of life, experiences of development and urbanisation, along with other issues such as spending less time outdoors – and found this is more of a risk factor for nearsightedness.
Environmental factors and a high pressure education system are also believed to have an impact. The authors looked at the level of myopia in Asian countries where these factors apply and discovered that it’s set to increase from 2.7 per cent to 9.8% of the world’s population by 2050. One study by the National Eye Institute found that the rate of myopia in the United States had risen by 66% since 1970, according to the Boston Globe.
The costs of eye healthcare will be extensive if these numbers increase, meaning that more services will need to be provided to accommodate for this impact and to correct this problem. But what many eye health practitioners may fail to recognise is that there are other factors involved that could potentially prevent these problems from developing in the first place. One of these is to assess lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise. Shortsightedness in particular could be caused by mothers eating starchy carbohydrates in pregnancy.
What is the real cause behind eye health problems like shortsightedness?
1. Starchy carbohydrates are one of the biggest causes of inflammation and have been shown in various studies to be one of the biggest risk factors involved in the cause of disease, especially with eye conditions such as myopia. Expectant mothers are often concerned about the foods they put in their mouths on a daily basis, but many of them may not be aware of how what they eat is associated with birth defects.
For nearly 100 years, independent nutritionists have written about how high sugar diets are bad for health, but a two continent study published in New Scientist 2002 found that expectant mothers who consumed foods with excess sugar, were more likely to produce babies with birth defects. While this isn’t scientifically conclusive, it produces a strong body of evidence to suggest that many high sugary foods are unfit for human consumption and should be avoided from the diet for best health.
Diets high in refined starches like breads and cereals have been shown to increase insulin levels and this has an impact on the eyeball’s development, making it abnormally long. This causes shortsightedness according to a team led by Loren Cordain, an evolutionary biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and Jennie Brand Miller, a nutrition scientist at the University of Sydney.(Acta. Ophth. Scand., 80: 125, 2002).
Their research helps to demonstrate why there has been a dramatic increase in myopia within developed countries over the past 200 years – and why it affects 30% of people of European descent. One of the reasons for this is because of the rate of starch digestion is much faster with people who consume more breads and cereals. The Western Diet is primarily based on starchy carbs and it is due to this rapid digestion that the pancreas pulls more insulin and as a result, the high insulin can lead to a fall in levels of insulin-like binding protein-3. This can disturb the delicate balance of the eye, causing it to grow too long so that the lens can no longer flatten itself and this is when the sharp image on the retina begins to lose its focus.
Shortsightedness is commonly thought to affect Asian children, especially the Chinese . One study carried out in Hong Kong found a link between children who had a high incidence of myopia and those on a high carbohydrate diet. When all of the above is taken into consideration, it becomes more important than ever to realise the significance of avoiding starchy carbohydrates to achieve good health – including good eye health in the long term.
2. Lack of nourishment in the foods consumed before and during pregnancy is the second biggest factor associated with eye health problems. Pregnant women should therefore consider the nutrients they are consuming on a daily basis if they want to improve their eye health. Vitamins such as L-Taurine, Bilberry Extract, Zeaxanthin extract, Gingko Biloba and Selenium are all thought to be beneficial. While Astaxanthin with DHA is a powerful biological antioxidant that can provide anti-inflammatory and protective effects for the eyes and in the growing foetus.
Lifestyle and dietary factors such as avoiding staring at computer screens for too long and eliminating starchy carbohydrates – in the form of breads, cereals, pasta and potatoes are all highly recommended to help with the process of a healthy pregnancy. However, a great alternative for those who miss pasta is Really Healthy Pasta™ – made from legumes, this healthy meal replacement is available from Good Health Naturally and is ideal for anyone who wants to avoid starchy carbs.
Since starchy carbs are one of the main causes of inflammation within the body and studies show that eating too many carbs can aggravate eye health problems, they are best avoided for this reason. By taking the above factors into consideration, it’s possible to improve eye health and see considerable improvements when this is followed in the long term and a dedicated eye health plan is followed consistently.
1 (Acta. Ophth. Scand., 80: 125, 2002).