Nutrition in the News – Diet and Vision Health
By Beth Grainger, RD, PhD
For a few years now, I have written a monthly article associated with Foodie Friday. As Foodie Friday has grown and evolved, so has this column, which will now feature a monthly article focusing on contemporary nutrition issues that affect parents and children.
This month I would like to address a nutrition story published in September that probably shocked kids and parents alike. It was a report of a teenager in England who became blindafter years of consuming a severely restricted diet. Could this be true? While the details of this particular case are not available, the role of nutritionin healthy vision has been known for a century. In fact, a vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness among kidsin the world with over 300,000 children across the globe going blind every year because of inadequate nutrition.
Beta-carotene (found in orange and red fruits and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes) is converted to vitamin A and provides much of the nutrient in American diets. Non-nutrient components of plant foods (also called phytochemicals) are additionally important in healthy vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin from spinach, Brussels sprouts and other green or yellow vegetables accumulate in the macula and can help prevent macular degeneration. Finding ways to get children to eat orange, green and yellow vegetables can be challenging, but it is really important. Here are some strategies to help you help your children establish good nutritional habits.
Beth Grainger, RDN, PhD is a Grandview Heights Schools parent and a senior research nutritionist in the Laboratory of Bionutrition and Cancer at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Grainger’s area of research interest includes human clinical trials focusing on nutrition assessment, plant phytochemicals, and dietary patterns in cancer prevention and survivorship.