If You Have Glaucoma, Eat More of These

Image Credit: GBloniarz / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Foods for Computer Eye Strain

What happens to our eyesight when we sit in front of a computer all day?

As researchers from the SUNY College of Optometry note in a study profiled in my video, Dietary Treatments for Computer Eye Strain, the rise in computer screens “has led to an increase in ocular and visual problems, including eye discomfort, blurring of distant objects, eye strain, and asthenopia (visual fatigue).” This has caused so-called “nearwork-induced transient myopia.” That’s when after staring at a computer screen for a while we look out the window and things start out all blurry. Our vision becomes blurred because our poor little ciliary muscles pulling at our lens are locked in this constant state of contraction to keep that near focus. Over time, this may have long-term adverse consequences.

How to Combat Computer Eye Strain

Experts in the field recommend taking 4-12 minute breaks staring out the window every hour.

We can also aid our vision with our diet. A double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study, for example, found a significant improvement in refractive values and eyestrain symptoms when subjects ate black currants compared to a placebo.

However, what passes for currants in the U.S. are usually champagne grape raisins, not actual black currants, which were banned in the U.S. a century ago at the behest of the lumber industry. The lumber industry feared that they might spread a plant disease that affects white pine (which we hardly even harvest any more). Black currants are, however, currently making a comeback (and the ban has been lifted in some states), though any anthocyanin-rich berry might have similar benefits (such as bilberries, blueberries, cranberries, black raspberries and red raspberries).

Foods vs. Supplements

Why bother with whole bilberries or black currants when we could just take anthocyanin supplements? Because, as we’ve seen over and over again, when we test supplements, we’re lucky if they actually contain what is listed on the label. Furthermore, even for products containing bilberries, one study found that labeling was often uninformative, misleading, or both, something for which the herbal supplement market is infamous. The largest study to date found that it appears most herbal supplement labels lie.

Bilberries vs. Nazis

Bilberries gained notoriety during World War II when it was said that pilots in the British Royal Air Force “were eating bilberry jam to improve their night vision.” It turns out this may have been a story concocted to fool the Germans. The real reason the Brits were able to suddenly target Nazi bombers in the middle of the night before the bombers even made it to the English channel was likely not because of bilberries, but because of a top secret new invention the British needed to keep quiet: radar.

For best results when it comes to computer eye strain, stick to whole berries with blue and red pigments, and don’t forget to give your eyes a break each hour.

For other videos on protecting our vision, check out Greens vs. Glaucoma, where I listed the best foods to help prevent glaucoma; in Dietary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration I did the same for age-related macular degeneration. I’ve also addressed the Dietary Treatment of Glaucoma.

By using a standing or treadmill desk, we can avoid some of the other adverse health effects of sitting at a computer all day. See my video Standing Up for Your Health. I’m now up to 17 miles a day!

-Michael Greger, M.D

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 – 2015 presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


16 responses to “Foods for Computer Eye Strain

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  1. BPA-ALTERNATIVE TURNING OUT TO BE MAYBE EVEN WORSE THAN BPA:

    In a groundbreaking study, researchers have shown why a chemical once thought to be a safe alternative to bisphenol-A, which was abandoned by manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups after a public outcry, might itself be more harmful than BPA.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/bpa-alternative-disrupts-normal-brain-cell-growth-is-tied-to-hyperactivity-study-says/2015/01/12/a9ecc37e-9a7e-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html

  2. I think that working as an operator and later in the business office at the phone company froze my muscles. Now retired I cured myself by reading “The Program for Better Vision” doing the exercises. I no longer need classes for distance or close up. So the muscles can be reactivated. Mine did so after wearing glasses for 42 years.

  3. Good reminder, thanks! I had to look twice to parse the “4-12 minute breaks …every hour” reference. If I took 4 12 minutes breaks each hour, I would get very little else done. Might be worth spelling it out (“to”) in this instance, for easily confused folks like me. :D

  4. I can only speak for myself, but I am attempting to reverse my own myopia. As mentioned in the blog post, breaks are critical, but there is animal model evidence to suggest that our eyes are physically adapting to corrective lenses. Ever wonder why we need stronger prescriptions every year? Our lenses have a fixed focus point that is individually tuned so our eyes can focus at infinite distance. These lenses are not appropriate for close up work that happens around 16-24″ and may ultimately damage our vision even further.

    I now do all close up work with a greatly reduced prescription. The strength is chosen such that my screens are crisp but everything just beyond them begins to blur. Like lifting weights in the gym, this should encourage my eyes to respond by increasing their range of focus over time. As with anything else involving our biology, our eyes are constantly adapting to environmental stresses. At least that’s the theory I’m betting on. I continue to use my full-strength prescription when outdoors or when doing anything that requires perfect vision at a distance such as driving. I haven’t seen much improvement in my range of focus yet (only 5 weeks in) but my eyes are no longer red at the end of the day, and they feel much more comfortable in general.

    I wish there was more human data available to guide us, but the rapidly growing eyewear industry has no incentive to fund such research. Any eye doctor to suggest such practices would be ostracized by their peers who have been trained to prescribe as many lenses as possible. I’m sure Dr. Greger knows what that feels like. It’s a testament to his dedication to the truth, and us. This is no different than any other area of the modern medical industry. Prevention and reversal of disease, myopia in this case, is outside of the existing paradigm and threatens industry profits, much like our beloved whole food plant-based diet.

    1. You are not alone, I am actually doing the same thing – wearing reduced strength lenses for daily tasks and only putting on the “correct” glasses for driving at night. I am also trying to encourage (or “retrain”) my eyes to focus, as that’s the ability they lose with time when assisted by stronger lenses. I’ve been doing that for over a year now. Sadly, my daily schedule is still wrong, i.e. not enough sleep and not enough eye exercises, but I notice improvement in focusing, sometimes I can see really well with my weak glasses, but only sometimes. I am sure combined with eating lots of berries and green leafy veggies, plus less computer time, more time in the Sun and outdoors, as well as some eye exercises would make it possible to reverse myopia, especially in the 50’s+.

      1. Based on limited individual cases, I think it will continue to add up over time. I’m doing most of those things too, including indirect exposure to sunlight by wearing hats without sunglasses when possible. Awesome to hear that I’m not alone.

        1. Definitely not alone :) BTW I am not in the 50’s, much younger, but my guess is that generally myopia naturally stops progressing after the 20’s and starts reversing as one gets older. But wearing stronger and stronger lenses every year should be a huge alarm bell – it is just plain wrong and makes no sense. I encourage everyone to get eye prescription and glasses, but also order glasses with reduced lenses from one of the cheap online stores, you can reduce strength by 0.5 or 1.0 and try them out for some time. These days a pair of glasses can be ordered for as cheap as $9, so why not?

          1. Jack, I’m following the same path as you and James. I’m myopic and my distance vision has definitely improved, and my “driving glasses” prescription is much weaker than before.

            I think the fruit and veg help, but it was this website that got me on my way:

            http://www.myopia.org/

            If you click on the picture of the young girl at the right of the page it brings you to an animation that explains the principle.

  5. you skipped over the most obvious and highest quality solution of all – forget commercial retail “supplements.” The phytomedicines (plant powders put inside a capsule) are typically several years since harvest; they are encapsualized often in smaller size gelatin caps which many people have a difficult time digesting at the doses which would garner a body response from that phytochemical; and you are always going to be more prone to getting contamination from other excipients, fillers, extenders, fakes, etc. So, why not try learning how to grow what you can, but until you can be your own producer, research and purchase in bulk size, the raw material which the supplement companies purchase to use in their “manufacturing” process. It might take a few months, but you can vet the quality suppliers and can set up a first-rate Apothecary comprised of infinitely more flexible, customizable, much higher quality, and did I mention incredibly more cost-effective? For example, if you put in a bilberry shrub this year, and until it produces, you buy a pound of bilberry berry powder from a reputable source such as Mountain Rose Herbs, and use in smoothies or capsulize it yourself (in high quality veggie-caps), you can experience its many benefits right now from the fantastic power of bilberry – which is similar looking to the more common blueberry but with exponentially higher levels of medicine — the cost-effective question alone sells the idea of becoming your own Herbal Medicine Self-Healer. Why take decades and go broke trying to get the medicine from what is essentially a much weaker carrier – the Blueberry? I use blueberries as flavoring but I use the far more powerful berries in Organic Powder form, as my medicines and in numerous ways. The lesser known berries, roots, leaves, barks, and flowers which have a much longer proven track record than the recent known to be harmful and unproven commercially synthesized pharmaceuticals, can be used in both food dishes and as medicine teas, caps, poultices, essential oils. Many more knowledgeable researchers say the difference between earlier man and us is that they used to use these lesser known roots, berries, flowers, leaves as daily food and this is why many of us are trying to return to these habits through herbal medicine. Herbal Medicine was once simply our daily Hunter-Gatherer diet. Modern Agricultural Genetics has dumbed down the wisdom of plants.

  6. Does anyone else have their computer eye strain made much worse by certain foods? I find that eating peanuts causes my eye muscles to just be at the absolute end of their rope. I also noticed a similar effect with eating turkey meat over the holidays.
    On the other hand, I’ve found that the flowers of the butterfly bush (buddleia) actually seem to reverse the effect. Historically in China butterfly bush was used for eye problems so I thought I’d try it and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Thankfully, it’s easy for me to grow in my region, so I don’t have to worry about all the crooked corporations.

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