This month Vegetarians in Paradise presents a book that emphasizes the importance of diet in the prevention of eye diseases.
The Eye Care Sourcebook
By Jay B. Lavine, M.D.
Contemporary Books, 2001
In this section where he advocates a diet strong in fruits, vegetables and grains, he discusses carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. He concludes the chapter and the book with the statement, "A plant-based diet with minimal or no animal products can easily meet your nutritional needs while avoiding the phytochemical deficiency that characterizes the standard meat-based diet.
Lavine, a Diplomate of both the American Board of Ophthalmology and the National Board of Medical Examiners, has written this book to educate the layperson who he feels should be self-educated to obtain quality eye care. The people he is addressing must be able to make lifestyle changes, especially in the area of nutrition, an area that is not often addressed by their physicians.
" A Low-Carbohydrate, High-Protein Diet Helps with Weight Loss and Prevents Diabetes." This is one of the beliefs he demolishes in his opening chapter, Myths About Vision and the Eyes. In short paragraphs he responds to myths such as Reading in the Dark Harms Your Eyes, Using Your Eyes Too Much Weakens Them, and Most Eye Diseases Cannot Be Prevented..
Eye care emergency scenarios give the reader advice on how to cope with conditions such as floating spots, foreign bodies in the eye, eyelid twitching, or loss of vision in one eye.
Much of the book is devoted to the anatomy of the eye with specific information on the eye muscles, the eyelids and lacrimal system, the cornea and conjuctiva, the retina, and the optic nerve. Not only does he explain how they work, but he details what can go wrong and the treatments available.
Lavine believes that many diseases affecting the eyes are preventable by diet. Cataracts are caused by oxidation of lens proteins. People who eat diets rich in antioxidants are less likely to develop cataracts. The surprising statement he makes is that galactose from milk sugar may cause cataracts in some people. Other cataract contributors are cigarette smoking, cortisone pills, alcohol, and inhalers.
The author examines the effects of lifestyle choices on glaucoma, a disease that causes a buildup of pressure inside the eye. This interocular pressure (IOP) eventually results in deterioration of the optic nerve and eventual blindness. He details studies that have examined the effects of vitamins, smoking, coffee, alcohol, vitamins, and supplements. He describes one study where a rice diet resulted in a striking reduction in interocular pressure. That rice diet had only 2.5 % of calories from fat. His suggestion that the low-fat nature of the diet may have been the reason for the decrease, and that perhaps a low-fat vegetarian diet should also be recommended to glaucoma patients.
Macular degeneration is another disease that may be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes. He feels that genetics should not be the sole blame for this disease that causes deterioration of the retina. The rush to employ zinc supplements may not be the answer in combating this condition. Instead, antioxidants in the form of carotenoid-rich foods high in lutein may be the best way to lower the risk of losing vision from macular degeneration. "I recommend trying to eat at least one serving a day of any of the dark, leafy green lutein-rich vegetables," Lavine writes. Evidence also shows that high fat animal intake increases the risk of macular degeneration.
Just as many people consult an auto manual for repair and maintenance of their automobiles, those same people may be well advised to have a copy of The Eye Care Sourcebook available for consultation on eye problems. This reviewer read it from cover to cover and found detailed information for eye care from refractions to surgeries. For others it would be valuable as a reference handbook to gain quick and accurate information about eye problems. The writing style and language are very accessible to the layman. The book contains extensive notes, a helpful glossary, a bibliography, a valuable list of resources, and an index.