”Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.” — Stevie Wonder

Lounging on a Saturday afternoon at my doctor son’s home while the family was napping, I picked up a copy of “Ophthalmology,” a medical journal on his coffee table. An article caught my eye, my eyes actually, about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for a serious and often untreatable, blinding condition called age-related macular degeneration.

In a convincing review of two studies covering nearly 5,000 patients over 10 years and carefully controlling for the many factors that usually confound nutrition research, the evidence was highly convincing: ... “adopting an energy-unrestricted diet rich in healthful nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish and reducing the unhealthful foods such as red and processed meats and savory and salty industrialized products may contribute to the prevention of AMD.”

It wasn’t clear what particular components of the healthy Mediterranean diet were most biologically impactful and how much of the benefit accrued due to avoiding unhealthier foods. Nonetheless, study subjects with the highest adherence to the Mediterranean diet showed highly significant decreases of advanced AMD as they aged past 75 years old.

We’ve long known of the impact of the Mediterranean diet on improving cardiovascular risk. Its rich mix of antioxidants, fruits and vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish and nuts, and a moderate consumption of wine is a tasty, craveable, sustainable lifestyle plan with multiple health benefits. These include lower rates of mortality, chronic diseases, stroke, cognitive decline, and diabetic retinopathy.

I was gratified to see a prestigious specialty journal publish a robust study on AMD, which has afflicted many of my patients and family members.

However, it was no great surprise to me that nutrition could be a positive factor. Nearly 20 years ago, I met an ophthalmologist named Steve Pratt who had a passionate interest in nutrition and health, wound healing and disease prevention.

Dr. Pratt wrote a series of popular books based on his extensive research, starting with SuperFoods Rx. Steve and I have kept in touch over the years, and his materials have provided sound advice for my practice and teaching.

So now we have one more reason to enjoy the Mediterranean diet, which is also available in ethnically diverse versions for Asians, Latinos, African Americans and others with culturally-preferred, varied, appropriate foods and seasonings.

As a long-time Texan, it isn’t likely I’ll give up my love for an occasional excellent lean steak or barbecue. My solution is rather to balance these delicious cultural choices with a healthy Mediterranean diet in what we can now brand the Texaterranean diet.

Eye health is vitally important to a high quality of life, so include that rich mix of nuts, berries, fruits, legumes, vegetables, fish and olive oil in your day to day meal planning and cooking. You’ll see the difference.

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” — Mark Twain

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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