Caffeine, added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unsaturated fats may increase the risk of developing glaucoma. However, maintaining a moderate weight may help manage the risk.

Glaucoma is an eye condition that causes a buildup of fluid pressure in the area. Without treatment, it could lead to blindness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around three million Americans have glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form, results in increased eye pressure. Doctors treat it with medications or surgery to reduce eye pressure and prevent vision loss.

Moreover, recent research suggests that modifying the diet may be a beneficial addition to medical treatment.

This article looks at which foods to avoid with glaucoma and why. In addition, it explores foods that may be beneficial and other lifestyle remedies health experts recommend. Lastly, it answers some frequently asked questions.

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A 2018 review concludes that people with glaucoma need to avoid excessive coffee consumption. Coffee is a rich source of caffeine, which may increase intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eye.

However, further research is necessary to confirm the association between caffeine and glaucoma.

Diabetes doubles the risk of glaucoma, so people with diabetes must manage their blood sugar to prevent this complication. In addition, some studies link a higher body mass index with elevated IOP.

Avoiding sugary foods helps manage weight and diabetes. Examples of sugary foods and drinks include:

  • sweets and candy
  • baked goods and cakes
  • ice creams, sauces, and syrups
  • added sugars in processed foods
  • sweetened beverages and sodas

Read more about the effects of excess sugar.

Eating excess refined carbohydrates can put someone at risk of metabolic syndrome. This is a condition that appears to increase the risk of several diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Refined carbohydrates provide less nutritional value than unrefined carbohydrates and may contribute to weight gain.

Examples of refined carbohydrates include:

  • white bread, bagels, and wraps
  • white pasta, and rice
  • processed breakfast cereals
  • cakes and cookies
  • chips and snacks

A 2020 study found that changes in carbohydrate intake may directly affect eye health outcomes.

Although research has shown the role of diet and weight loss on decreased IOP, no evidence has indicated that losing excess weight reduces the risk of glaucoma.

Polyunsaturated fats, especially those known as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, can benefit a person’s health.

The Office of Dietary Statistics recommends consuming omega-3 acids to:

  • help with cardiovascular health
  • reduce triglycerides in the blood
  • improve brain, joint, and eye health

Omega-3 fatty acids are present in foods, such as fish, and in dietary supplements, such as fish oil.

However, despite these claims, 2018 research associated higher levels of total polyunsaturated fatty acid intake with a significantly increased risk of glaucoma.

The above study concluded that higher intakes of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids helped reduce the risk of glaucoma. It also found that higher levels of total polyunsaturated fats carried a higher risk of the condition.

Read more about fish oils and omega-3.

The CDC notes that although there is no cure for glaucoma, people can take steps to help preserve their vision and prevent vision loss. These include:

  • Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam: Some health insurance providers cover an annual eye test. People need to have an examination when they are 40 years of age, even if they are not in a high risk group.
  • Talk with family members: They can discuss how to protect vision health, as open-angle glaucoma is hereditary.
  • Maintain moderate weight and blood pressure: Maintaining an active lifestyle can help reduce the risk of glaucoma.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that UV rays may cause a type of glaucoma. Experts recommend wearing quality polarized sunglasses and a hat when exploring the outdoors.

According to a 2021 review, there is emerging evidence that metabolic deficiencies may play an essential role in the development of glaucoma.

Food groups

Some of the foods that may provide benefits in moderation include:

Vitamins and spices

Another study suggests that vitamin A and ginkgo biloba may be beneficial for glaucoma. Lastly, a 2022 review indicates that the following may have protective and anti-inflammatory effects:

Balanced diet

The Glaucoma Research Foundation advises that a balanced diet will not prevent glaucoma for everyone, but there are benefits to eating certain foods for those with the condition. They recommend that people include the following as part of a nutritious diet:

  • plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • leafy greens
  • nuts
  • oily fish
  • tea

The following answers some frequently asked questions.

What causes glaucoma to worsen?

The CDC advises people to consult a doctor if they notice early signs of glaucoma, as this will help avoid severe effects such as vision loss.

In addition, eating well, controlling blood pressure, and being physically active can help prevent vision loss.

What foods are good for glaucoma?

Health experts say a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, especially leafy greens, is beneficial.

Health experts recommend people avoid added sugars and refined carbohydrates to help prevent glaucoma or vision loss. In addition, coffee may increase intraocular pressure, so it is best to avoid or limit drinking it.

However, a diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits containing vital vitamins and minerals may help protect vision.