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What's on my menu?

Why having a balanced diet is helping in the battle with diabetes

In most areas of life, I like to think I take a laid-back, pragmatic view. But, when it comes to food, that goes out the window. I am obsessed. I am a snob. From breakfast to dinner, New Year to Christmas, my diary is mapped out by what I will be eating, when I will be eating it, and with whom. Family holidays are as much about paellas and gelato as they are ancient ruins and art galleries.

I am not the only one it seems. Turn on the television and the chances are that an episode of Bake Off, MasterChef or The Great British Menu will appear. 

For me, buying local and seasonal produce is a factor in what I eat. If I can say I have met the farmer who grew my salad leaves or milked the herd of Jersey cows, so much the better.

But I have also come to appreciate that the balance of my diet is important too – and this is a point that has become clearer than ever to me while working for the Association of Optometrists (AOP).

Why? Because having a balanced diet can help us to keep our eyes healthy and influence whether we develop other diseases that affect our vision.

Take diabetes as an example. The World Health Organization reports that the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, and it acknowledges that diabetes is a major cause of blindness.

The charity Diabetes UK estimates that sadly 1,600 people lose their sight every year. They are likely to have developed diabetic retinopathy – this is an eye disease that people living with diabetes are more at risk of getting. As the charity explains, if our blood sugar levels and blood pressure are consistently high, we can seriously damage our blood vessels including the ones in our eyes.

Worryingly, it is believed that many people with diabetes are undiagnosed and are therefore not receiving the treatment they need. But optometry can help with diagnosising patients too. Using clever tools, a sight test by an optometrist can detect signs of underlying health conditions, including diabetes.

The AOP has produced a video for patients with top tips for healthy eyes along with guidance about what happens during a sight test.

I am now that annoying person that bugs family and friends about their diet and when they last saw their local optometrist for a sight test. But I think it is a price worth paying to look after our sight.

John WhiteJohn White is Editor of Optometry Today, and Deputy Director of Communications for the Association of Optometrists.