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Too Sweet: How Sugar Impacts Your Eyes

Posted on April 13th, 2017

Everyone enjoys a few sweet treats here and there. Sugar in moderation is part of what makes life so delicious! To maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep in mind that eating too much sugar can sometimes lead to complications with disease – even in your eyes. Today FYidoctors examines what happens to your vision when you over indulge in the candy aisle and shares advice on how to reclaim a vision-friendly diet.

A balanced diet can include simple carbohydrates and sugars that are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, simple carbohydrates that are added to processed food or used in baked goods and sweets lack the essential nutrients that natural alternatives possess. Because the body absorbs these faster and does not gain any nutrition from doing so, overdoing it on a regular basis can lead to serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

As it turns out, high amounts of added sugar intake can also have an adverse impact on the eyes.

“If you eat a lot of simple sugars, your body is more likely to produce inflammation in the body, which can affect many different organs and systems including the eyes,” said Dr. Sean Wilson, an optometrist at the Calgary – Varsity FYidoctors location.

Eye health conditions caused by the sweet stuff

Diabetic retinopathy is directly linked to blood sugar levels, which become elevated with excessive sugar consumption. Diabetics can also experience fluctuation in their vision when their blood sugar levels are raised, typically having a temporary increase in myopia.

A high concentration of proteins in the lens of your eye can lead to the formation of cataracts. Emerging research suggests that certain foods that contain low-quality carbohydrates may increase the risk of protein buildup. According to this theory, foods to avoid include sugar, honey, alternative sweeteners, soda or similar drinks, candy, baked goods, sugary cereals, white flour (including white bread and regular pasta), and white rice.

Studies have suggested that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may progress more quickly in patients whose diets are high in sugar consumption. Results indicate that those at risk of AMD may benefit from minimizing added sugars and refined carbohydrates in their diets to slow the advancement of this blinding eye disease.

Dry eyes can be exacerbated by a high sugar diet (again due to inflammation caused by the sugars). Researchers believe that spikes deliver too much glucose to the eye too quickly and hinder the ability of the organ to utilize the energy provided by the glucose.

“As your age increases, the risk of eye disease is higher if your diet is high in sugar,” added Dr. Wilson.

How to reduce added sugars

If you would like to start decreasing your intake, here are a few methods to ease into it:

  • Swap your favourite soda for water.
  • Opt for fruit instead of the typical dessert.
  • Try to limit foods with high glycemic index (foods that are broken down quickly in the body to sugar). Examples include white bread, white rice, potatoes, and pasta.
  • Choose whole grain foods and foods with a decent amount of fibre, as they have lower glycemic indexes.
  • Keep an eye on the ingredients list of all prepared foods you eat, ensuring that there are minimal or no added sugars.
  • Learn the most common additives to avoid: cane juice or syrup, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, malt syrup, and molasses.

If you would like to learn more about how sugar can impact your vision, book an appointment at an FYidoctors location near you.