Eat More Leafy Greens to Lower Glaucoma Risk

Eat More Leafy Greens to Lower Glaucoma Risk


BHM Edit Staff

Study participants who ate green had a 20 percent or more lower risk of developing this leading cause of blindness

Eating green leafy vegetables every day may lower the risk of glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness, by 20 percent to 30 percent over many years, according to a new study.

“We found those consuming the most green leafy vegetables had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of glaucoma,” said study leader Jae Kang. Kang, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Glaucoma develops when fluid increases in the front part of the eye and causes pressure, damaging the optic nerve and leading to vision loss, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute. African Americans are more likely to develop glaucoma and we tend to get it at an earlier age.

The study, the first to look at a link between eating leafy veggies and glaucoma risk, followed more than 100,000 men and women all age 40 or older in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. All of the participants were glaucoma free at the start of the study, and they had eye exams every two years. By the end of the 25-year study period, nearly 1,500 people had developed glaucoma.

The researchers analyzed consumption of green leafy vegetables among the participants, dividing them into five group from the highest level of leafy green vegetable consumption to the lowest. Those who ate the most averaged about 1.5 servings a day (about one and a half cups), Kang said. Those in the group eating the least leafy greens ate about a serving every three days.

“In glaucoma, we think there is an impairment of blood flow to the optic nerve,” Kang said. “And an important factor that regulates blood flow to the eye is a substance called nitric oxide.”

Green leafy vegetables contain nitrates, precursors to nitric oxide, the researchers said. “When you consume the higher amount of green leafy vegetables, you have greater levels of nitric oxide in your body,” Kang said.

Though the study found only an association between leafy greens and a lower risk of glaucoma, not cause-and-effect, suggesting that people include more leafy green vegetables in their diet doesn’t seem to be bad advice.