Enhancing visual performance through nutritionAugust 25, 2017 | by Donna Mockler
You hear it over and over again – eat your dark leafy greens. In case you didn’t need another good reason, these super vegetables can actually help enhance your visual performance.
OUR INTERNAL SUNGLASSES
The retina (a light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) contains special pigments which absorb harmful light. Acting as our “internal sunglasses”, the Macular Pigment (MP) absorbs blue light which is not only damaging to visual cells, but also responsible for light ‘scatter’ (resulting in glare and a reduction in visual capability).
In addition to the sun, we are also exposed to blue light when viewing screens on our many electronic devices (smartphones, TVs, laptops, e-readers, computers). Adding to the above concerns, this blue light can also interfere with melatonin production and sleep/wake cycles. Many of the newer devices have included a ‘blue light filter’ option, however if this isn’t available, individuals may want to consider downloading the free “f.lux” app which helps to reduce exposure to blue light later in the day.
Better still, a coating (such as Zeiss-Blue Protect) that filters the harmful wavelengths of blue light can be added to spectacle lenses.
MACULAR PIGMENT AND GREENS
Macular Pigment is formed from the carotenoids Lutein & Zeaxanthin (L&Z) which are found primarily in dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, parsley, broccoli, bok choy), corn, orange/yellow peppers, eggs, as well as in other fruits & veggies.
The average diet provides ~ 3mg of L&Z per day compared to the 10mg/day intake that is recommended by Optometrists. Think about adding some of these greens to your smoothie, salad or stir fry to help keep your pigment density high.
- 1 cup raw spinach=8mg L&Z
- ½ cup cooked kale=17mg L&Z
- ½ cup broccoli=2mg L&Z
- ½ cup peas=1mg L&Z
Not only can low Macular Pigment reduce your ability to maximize vision, it can also increase your risk of developing macular degeneration. As we age, the cells in the ‘sweet spot’ of our eyes can become damaged to the point where central vision is lost or compromised leaving only peripheral vision. Macular Degeneration is a leading cause of blindness and, although both genetics and diet play a role, you can’t change your genetics (yet) but you can change your diet!
Results from two research studies that were published this month (August 2017) have also suggested a link between L&Z carotenoids and cognitive function.
Bottom line – eat more greens!
GREENS AND ENHANCING VISION FOR ATHLETES
By increasing the intake of the dietary carotenoids – Lutein & Zeaxanthin—and consequently the density of our MP, research has shown we can also enhance some of our visual skills.
So how does this apply to athletes?
- Improved visual range: allows an athlete to view further into the distance especially when there is haze (humidity, pollution) in the atmosphere
- An increased tolerance to glare as well as better recovery from bright light exposure: allows an athlete to see better under a bright sky or stadium lights or to travel quickly between bright and dimly lit terrain (skiing, mountain biking)
- Increased contrast sensitivity: allows an athlete to better pick up detail when determining the spin at the release of a baseball pitch or tennis serve or to read the terrain when skiing or mountain biking
- Enhanced visual processing and reaction times: faster processing of visual information allows for a quicker reaction and often a better choice of actions
How do you know if you can improve your Macular Pigment density? The FYidoctors -Performance Vision clinic at Fortius uses a ‘Densitometer’ to measure Macular Pigment. If your test shows low MP, a diet plan will be provided to help you improve your density, and likely your overall vision.
Visit the Fortius website to learn more about Performance Vision services or call 604.292.2501 to book your next appointment.