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Grapes provide a dietary shield to protect eye health

In a recent study from the California Grape Table Commission, experts have found that older adults can improve key markers of eye health by consuming grapes on a daily basis. 

“Oxidative stress is a key risk factor for visual impairment and consuming dietary antioxidant-rich foods may help in managing visual impairments,” wrote the researchers. 

“However, a limited number of studies have investigated the effect of dietary antioxidant-rich food including grapes on eye health in older adults.”

Studying grapes and eye health

The experts set out to investigate impact of regular grape consumption on macular pigment accumulation and other biomarkers of eye health. 

While this is the first human study of its kind, the results support preliminary studies which indicated that grape consumption protects retinal structure and function.

How the research was conducted 

“This was a 16 week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Thirty-four Singapore older adults were randomized into regularly consuming either 46 g day−1 of freeze-dried table grape powder (the intervention group) or the same amount of placebo powder (the control group),” explained the study authors. 

“Macular pigment optical density (MPOD), skin carotenoid status, advanced glycation end product (AGEs) status and dietary lutein intake were assessed every 4 weeks, and plasma lutein concentration, total antioxidant capacity and total phenolic content were measured every 8 weeks.”

What the researchers learned 

The study revealed that grape eaters showed a significant increase in MPOD, plasma antioxidant capacity, and total phenolic content compared to those on placebo. 

Furthermore, participants who did not consume grapes saw a significant increase in harmful AGEs, as measured in the skin.

“Our study is the first to show that grape consumption beneficially impacts eye health in humans which is very exciting, especially with a growing aging population,” said co-author Dr. Jung Eun Kim.  

“Grapes are an easy, accessible fruit that studies have shown can have a beneficial impact in normal amounts of just 1 ½ cups per day.”

Implications for grapes and eye health

The findings underscore the significant risk of eye disease and vision problems within aging populations. 

With age being a considerable risk factor, it is essential to address the issue proactively to preserve eye health. 

Aging population 

Science has shown that an aging population has a higher risk of eye disease and vision problems, as noted by the researchers.

With an increase in life expectancy across the globe, this issue becomes even more pressing. The aging process naturally exacerbates the susceptibility to various health issues, including eye diseases and visual impairments.

Key risk factors

Among the notable risk factors for eye diseases in aging individuals are oxidative stress and high levels of ocular advanced glycation end products (AGEs). 

Oxidative stress, resulting from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, plays a pivotal role in the development of age-related eye conditions. Concurrently, elevated levels of ocular AGEs also significantly contribute to the predicament.

Impact of AGEs

Advanced glycation end products  are notorious for their detrimental effects on the eyes, particularly through damaging the vascular components of the retina, impairing cellular function, and causing oxidative stress.

Such damage to the retina’s vascular components is especially concerning, as it directly influences vision quality. 

Furthermore, the impairment of cellular functions and induction of oxidative stress by AGEs collectively accelerate the progression of various eye diseases, making them a crucial target for prevention and treatment strategies.

The antioxidant solution

The experts noted that dietary antioxidants can decrease oxidative stress and inhibit the formation of AGEs, with possible beneficial effects on the retina.

The reduction of oxidative stress and prevention of AGE formation through dietary means offer a practical and accessible approach to mitigating the risk of eye diseases. 

Improved macular pigment optical density is particularly noteworthy, as it is closely associated with enhanced visual function and protection against age-related macular degeneration.

The grape advantage

The protective effects of antioxidants – particularly those found naturally in grapes – is a promising avenue for further research focused on eye health. 

Through dietary interventions and a focus on antioxidant-rich foods, there is hope for improving quality of life among older adults.

The research is published in the journal Food & Function.

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