Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Blueberries and Your Eyes

Blueberries and Your Eyes

By Dr. Mark D. Olmsted

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘blueberry’? I’m old enough to remember the Polident TV commercial where the necklace made from denture material was baked in a blueberry pie to demonstrate how well their product could clean stains. I’m also young enough at heart to think back at seeing Violet Beauregarde turn into a giant blueberry when I saw the original “Willie Wonka” movie on the big screen four decades ago. Whoah… that’s a lot of years gone ...It’s just a number Marko…just a number…

July is National Blueberry Month. Most people know that this small berry is very nutritious. There are some that refer to it as a ‘super-food’ due to its pound for pound higher than average concentration of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, specifically anthocyanin, the natural pigment that gives the fruit its color.

Blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse when you consider what’s concentrated in that little round package. A one cup serving of blueberries is only 80 calories, yet it supplies 25% of our vitamin C and 10% our fiber. Other vitamins that are present include vitamins A, K, and various B vitamins in lower traces. The minerals magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and others are also in the mix. One gets all of this with the low glycemic index of 40. To put that into perspective, table sugar is 100 on the same carbohydrate scale.

In addition to anthocyanin, vitamins A and C are also antioxidants. Blueberries have been studied for their anti-inflammatory effect and are possibly helpful in lowering our bad cholesterol (LDL) because of another polyphenol in their skins, pterostilbene. This trifecta of antioxidant effect, lowering of LDL, and anti-inflammatory properties is what make the fruit a benefit regarding the eye.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is thought to be caused by cell damage and inflammation of the walls of the small blood vessels behind macula from free-radical oxidation. This cell damage causes cholesterol plaques to stick to the wall causing deposits that develop into drusen, the yellow spots that start the demise of this best seeing part of our retina.

A Japanese study suggests that blueberries may be beneficial for the eyes. In fact, blueberries are called ‘the vision fruit’ in Japan. This study claims that the anthocyanin decreases eyestrain, improves night vision, and helps the eyes adjust to glare and sudden lighting changes. The thought is that the anthocyanin accelerates the production of the retinal pigments. This seems to reinforce anecdotal claims about British WWII pilots seeing better at night by eating plenty bilberries prior to after dark bombing raids. Bilberries are closely related to blueberries.

Other degenerative conditions for which blueberries are thought to be protective benefit include heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. They seem to be helpful in urinary tract infections, as well.

There is no magic bullet. Blueberries certainly don’t replace medications that one may need for the conditions mentioned in this article, but eating more wisely on a regular basis should decrease the chances getting or even slow down many of degenerative diseases mentioned. One will be much better off in the long run by eating a handful of blueberries more often than a handful of deep-fried chips.

July is prime time for fresh blueberry harvest. Load up on them and enjoy your summer. As Homer Simpson would say, “Mmmm blueberries…”