New study: For eye health, nutrition matters

New study: For eye health, nutrition matters

"All health care providers need to concern themselves with prevention, not just treatment."

New research gives optometrists yet another reason to discuss nutrition—and its impact on eye health—with patients.

A recent study found that participants with high adherence to dietary guidelines had a lowered risk of visual impairment. The study tracked participants' adherence to specific dietary guidelines and the occurrence of visual impairments over 10 years.

Researchers analyzed data from 3,654 participants from the Blue Mountain Eye Study, who were examined at baseline, and reexamined after both five and 10 years.

In conjunction, they used a Total Diet Score, which was calculated based on the Australian diet quality index and included components of diet quality, poor dietary habits and energy balance.

The study was published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

A. Paul Chous, O.D., AOA representative to the National Diabetes Education Program of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), isn't surprised by the study's results. He notes the abundance of evidence that links poor diet to poor health outcomes, including age-related macular degeneration and diabetes retinopathy.

"Nutrition is critical to eye health," says Dr. Chous, adding that high consumption of added sugars, refined carbohydrates, along with low intake of beneficial plant-based foods that contain phytonutrients and fiber, directly contribute to increased risk for multiple eye diseases and catastrophic vision loss.

ODs can play a role in nutritional guidance
Dr. Chous thinks the findings of this study are important to optometrists—as well as other health care practitioners.

"These findings reinforce the need for optometrists to counsel patients about good nutrition and be familiar with evidence-based findings regarding diet. All health care providers need to concern themselves with prevention, not just treatment," says Dr. Chous.

To effectively communicate the message of good nutrition with their patients, Dr. Chous believes ODs should do the following:

  • Learn more about nutrition.

  • Incorporate a few simple questions about diet, plant-based foods, and added sugar consumption into the patient history (i.e., what does a normal dinner look like for you? How often do you eat fruits and vegetables?).

  • Discuss diet when making individualized patient recommendations and use "motivational interviewing techniques." For example, ask the patient to set a goal to achieve buy-in, have the patient write that goal down for themselves, enter that goal in the patient's chart, then follow up at the next clinic encounter.

  • Use appropriate patient handouts from AOA Marketplace that reinforce your messages.

November 24, 2014

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