Low-Carb Diet May Lower Risk of Blinding Eye Disease

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NEW YORK—Following a long-term diet that’s low in carbohydrates and high in fat and protein from vegetables may lower the risk of the most common subtype of glaucoma. In a first-of-its-kind study, a researcher at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) helped discover that if at-risk groups adhere to these dietary restrictions, they may reduce their risk of developing primary open angle glaucoma with early paracentral visual loss by 20 percent. Results from the research have been published in the July 22 print issue of Eye-Nature.

The study is important because glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common type. POAG is the leading cause of optic nerve degeneration that is related to the pressure level inside the eye, but other factors also contribute to this condition. Patients typically experience few or no symptoms until the disease progresses and they have vision loss.

“A diet low in carbohydrates and higher in fats and proteins results in the generation of metabolites favorable for the mitochondrion-rich optic nerve head, which is the site of damage in POAG. This dietary pattern has already been shown to have favorable results for epilepsy and showed some promising results for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases,” said co-corresponding author Louis R. Pasquale, MD, FARVO, deputy chair for ophthalmology research for the Mount Sinai Health System.

“It’s important to note that a low-carbohydrate diet won’t stop glaucoma progression if you already have it, but it may be a means to preventing glaucoma in high-risk groups. If more patients in these high-risk categories—including those with a family history of glaucoma—adhered to this diet, there might be fewer cases of vision loss.”