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October 7th, 2010
01:45 PM ET

Will eating carrots help my eyes?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Anna Beth in Dayton, Ohio

“Are carrots actually good for your eyes or is that just a “mom’s tale?”

Answer:

Well, Anna Beth – your mom’s right, sort of. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which helps maintain strong eyesight. But if your eyes aren’t 20/20 to start, eating carrots won’t correct a vision problem. This is why it’s critical as you age to consume foods that can keep your vision crisp and clear. Around age 50 is when many people begin noticing a decline in eyesight. In fact nearly 10 million Americans experience something known as macular degeneration. It develops when the macula tissue surrounding the retina area in your eye deteriorates, causing a blurry, dark blind spot smack dab in the center of your vision.

But here’s the good news: Experts have pinpointed that foods rich in omege-3 fatty acids may protect your vision the most. Research shows foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the eye, which keeps the arteries and blood vessels healthy. It seems to protect the eye much the same way as it would protect your heart. A study released last year found just one serving of fish a week reduced study participant's risk of macular degeneration by 31 percent. Two servings of nuts equaled a 35 percent decrease and just one tablespoon of olive oil a day seemed to drop your risk of blurry vision in half! The key ingredient was omega-3 fatty acids, the good kind of fat! Here's a tip: The fish with the highest levels of omega-3 are salmon, tuna, mackerel. As for nuts? Walnuts are among the best.

We all know all "fat" isn't created equal, and here's one more example why: People who consume diets high in trans fat are nearly two times more likely to develop macular degeneration than those who limit their trans fat intake. So stay away from a lot of sweets, processed and fried foods. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of omega-3 fatty acid foods a week for a balanced diet. If you don't like fish or nuts – soybeans, tofu and flaxseeds also are great sources of omega-3.


soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. jenstate

    I've read krill oil is a great way to get the right kind of omega-3s. Here is an article about omega 3s, why they are healthy and krill oil in general.

    October 7, 2010 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. A Zelony

    My understanding was that the "carrots are good for night vision" story was from WWII when British intelligence tried to create a plausible explanation for RAF pilots finding German planes at night (so as not o reveal the use of radar).

    http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/carrots.asp

    October 7, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Howard L

    I eat a lot of herring. It is high in Omega 3 and is not from a depleated species of fish.

    October 8, 2010 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Steve

    I'm a person who naturally reaches for carrots as a snack, I'll typically have 2 or more bags of carrots in the refrigerator at any given moment. Aside for being an excellent source of fiber the seem to brighten and sharpen my eyesight.

    docfeelgood.us
    Steve

    October 8, 2010 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.