There are dozens of scientifically proven benefits of the keto diet. By increasing ketone body production, enhancing fat burning, and reducing blood sugar and insulin resistance, adopting a keto diet can protect your brain, reduce your risk of dementia, help you lose weight, reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, and prevent type 2 diabetes. In this article, you’ll learn about a groundbreaking study that suggests the keto diet may help protect your vision, and it may prevent or reverse glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
The results of the 2018 Journal of Neuroscience study are a big deal because glaucoma is a big deal for people with glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a group of related eye diseases, all of which can cause damage to the optic nerve and lead to permanent vision loss.
It is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts, and nearly 3.5 million people in the United States have glaucoma.
The most common type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, develops gradually and without pain.
Closed-angle glaucoma is another form of glaucoma that can appear gradually or suddenly. Sudden onset of closed-angle glaucoma may involve eye pain, blurred vision, redness of the eyes and nausea.
If left untreated, all types of glaucoma can lead to blindness.
What causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma can occur without any cause, but many factors can affect it. The most important of these factors is intraocular pressure. Your eyes produce a fluid called aqueous humor that nourishes your eyes. This fluid flows through your pupil to the front of your eye. In a healthy eye, the fluid leaves through a drainage canal located between your iris and cornea.
With glaucoma, the drainage duct has increased resistance. The fluid has nowhere to go, so it builds up in your eye. This excess fluid puts pressure on your eye. Eventually, this elevated eye pressure can damage your optic nerve and lead to glaucoma.
Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?
Some people have a higher than normal risk of getting glaucoma. This includes people who:
- are over age 40
- have family members with glaucoma
- are of African, Hispanic, or Asian heritage
- have high eye pressure
- are farsighted or nearsighted
- have had an eye injury
- use long-term steroid medications
- have corneas that are thin in the center
- have thinning of the optic nerve
- have diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, poor blood circulation or other health problems affecting the whole body
Discuss your risk of glaucoma with your ophthalmologist. People who have more than one risk factor are at higher risk of developing glaucoma.
The Study: Mice with Glaucoma Go Keto
A team of researchers at Northeast Ohio Medical University fed a carefully distributed diet to a strain of mice that were on the verge of developing glaucoma. This diet consisted of 90 percent fat and very low levels of carbohydrates.
This type of diet puts the body’s metabolism into a state that mimics starvation; in the past, it has been shown to have neuroprotective effects against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
So What Happened When the Mice Went Keto?
After eight weeks of ketosis treatment, the researchers sacrificed mice to examine the structure and function of their eyes and optic nerves. Here’s what they found:
- The fragile cells of the optic nerve do not degenerate and continue to send signals to the brain.
- Ketones have a significant antioxidant effect and help protect the cells of the eyes and optic nerve.
- Due to higher levels of the MCT (monocarboxylate transporter) energy transporter, the mouse eyes and optic nerves have more energy available to do their jobs.
- Ketotic mice develop more mitochondria (the “cellular powerhouse” that produces energy).
Here’s another key aspect of the study: the scientists chose to switch the mice to a keto diet when they were nine months old because these mice typically experience vision loss around the tenth month of life.
These findings suggest that following a keto diet could help prevent optic nerve deterioration in patients with glaucoma. More research is needed to support this hypothesis.
This study suggests that the keto diet might exerts positive effects on glaucoma. But it needs more studies to support this. Consult your doctors if you want to take keto diet for glaucoma.