Food For Thought Eye Diet

Tuesday, 09 March 2010

SPECSAVERS, the UK's leading optical retailer, has devised a special eye diet following research claiming that saffron could save and possibly improve sight.


The study by Sydney University and the Italian university of L'Aquila reported that animals fed on a saffron-rich diet were less likely to suffer from Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) ¹, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK². The condition causes the cells of the retina, which is used for detailed vision, to die and if undiagnosed can lead to loss of sight.


The study also reported that in subjects with AMD, the affected cells began to repair themselves. Researchers found that saffron regulates the fatty acids in the cells, making them resistant to the effects of macular degeneration. Saffron also contains beta-carotene, which is present in carrots¹.


Specsavers optometrist and head of clinical services, Paul Carroll comments: 'This research is very encouraging and may lead to new treatments for AMD. However we encourage the public to eat a well balanced diet, as well as having regular eye examinations once every two years to catch the condition in its early stages.'


A study by The Royal College of Ophthalmology revealed that consuming too much beef and lamb can raise the chances of developing AMD and the risk of blindness by 50%³.


Pork has also been shown to have a similar effect, but eating chicken can reduce the risk of developing AMD by as much as 57 per cent³. A further study by the University of Liverpool has shown that a diet high in fruit, vegetables and nuts can similarly reduce the likelihood of developing AMD, by up to 20 per cent4.


Mr Carroll explains: 'The right diet is particularly beneficial in protecting the macular, an area of the retina, from the effects of oxidation, which causes gradual wear and tear to the cells in the eye. This is the part of the retina that gives us our most acute vision for tasks, such as reading, recognising faces and watching television, so it is important to protect it.'


Foods which contain high levels of the antioxidants - beta-carotene, lutein and vitamins C and E - appear to reduce the risk of developing AMD. Foods such as saffron, pepper, broccoli, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, are rich in these antioxidants.

Mr Carroll continues: 'Eating the right antioxidants and vitamins will help to neutralise potentially cell-damaging molecules called 'free radicals' which are thought to harm the eye's lens and macular. So for your health and your eyesight's sake, enjoy a variety of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains every day and have an eye examination at least once every two years.'


The Eye Diet: Specsavers' top ten foods to feast your eyes on:

  • 1.Chicken - has been shown to reduce the risk of developing AMD.
  • 2.Saffron - This spice contains beta-carotene, which the body can convert to vitamin A. People who consume foods high in beta-carotene have been shown to have better night-vision than those who don't. Studies in animals found that saffron also regulates the levels of fatty acids in the retina making its cells more resilient to the effects of AMD
  • 3.Dark green leafy vegetables - these contain beta-carotene and vitamin C. Preliminary data shows that vitamin C can help slow cataract progression once the lenses of the eyes have become cloudy4.
  • 4.Peppers - peppers contain lutein that scientists believe protects the sensitive retina from light-induced oxidation damage and may be responsible for reversing macular degeneration in its very early stages.
  • 5.Broccoli - contains beta-carotene and lutein.
  • 6.Brussel sprouts - contain lutein.
  • 7.Pumpkin, yams, squash and sweet potatoes - contain beta-carotene and lutein.
  • 8.Apricots and citrus fruits - contain beta-carotene.
  • 9.Sardines - contain zinc and vitamin E. Zinc is beneficial for wound healing and maintaining the immune system. The body needs zinc to form certain anti-oxidant enzymes in the eye. Preliminary studies suggest that vitamin E protects against the development of cataracts.
  • 10. Nuts - Contain zinc, vitamin E and selenium, another antioxidant.




1. Saffron found to help vision loss in elderly, Bisiti S, 2010

2. Age of discovery, Lorna Layward, February 2006

3. Red Meat and Chicken Consumption and Its Association With Age-related Macular Degeneration, Elaine W.-T. Chong, Julie A. Simpson, et al. 1 April 2009

4. Fruit for vision, Professor Ian Grierson, 2009


Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of Specsavers   



Specsavers notes to editors                                                                                             

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world
  • The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has nearly 1,500 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Annual turnover for the Specsavers Group is forecast to reach a record £1.4 billion in 2009/10
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners
  • Specsavers employs more than 26,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain's most trusted brand of opticians for the eighth year running by Reader's Digest in 2009
  • More than one in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers * - 9,700,000 glasses were exported from the warehouse to stores in 2009
  • Specsavers share by volume of the total optical market (including retailers that are not opticians) is 34%. Our share of the opticians market is 39%.*
  • Specsavers is the largest retail provider of home delivery contact lenses in Europe and one of the top two retail suppliers of continuous wear lenses in the world
  • Specsavers is now the largest retail dispenser of digital hearing aids in the UK and offers a hearing service from more than 400 locations
  • Specsavers supports numerous optical and hearing charities, including Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. During its three-year support for Diabetes UK it raised more than £250,000 to fund research into diabetic retinopathy
  • Since 2003 more than a quarter of a million glasses have been collected and recycled by Specsavers stores for Vision Aid Overseas, for use in developing countries. Specsavers stores across Britain raised more than £300,000 in 2009 to fund a dedicated eyecare clinic and teaching facility in Zambia, supported by Vision Aid Overseas. Stores will raise an additional £300,000 to continue the project.



*GfK NOP (Sept 2009)