New research reveals grapes may be just as beneficial for eye health as carrots.
A new study from the National University of Singapore has found that eating grapes daily can improve key markers of eye health. The findings suggest grapes may help protect vision as we age.
The study was published in the journal Food & Function.
Grapes Might Ward Off Age-Related Eye Disease
The study looked at 34 healthy adults aged 21-40 years old. For 16 weeks, participants were split into two groups:
- One group ate 1.5 cups of grapes per day (about 2 large handfuls of grapes).
- The other group ate a placebo.
After 16 weeks, the grape-eating group saw significant improvements in several markers of eye health compared to the placebo group:
- Higher levels of macular pigment optical density (MPOD). MPOD refers to the density of protective pigments in the retina’s macula. Higher MPOD may reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration.
- Increased antioxidant capacity in the blood plasma. Antioxidants help reduce oxidative stress that can damage eye cells.
- Higher total phenolic content. Phenolic compounds are antioxidants found abundantly in grapes.
The grape group also had lower levels of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). High levels of AGEs are associated with many age-related eye diseases.
Grapes are high in antioxidants and polyphenols that are beneficial for eye health. These compounds may lower oxidative stress, inhibit AGE formation, and protect the delicate retinal blood vessels and cells.
The researchers conclude regular grape consumption could support eye health as we get older, especially by improving macular pigment density.
Oxidative Stress: A Key Risk Factor for Eye Disease
Oxidative stress refers to cell and tissue damage caused by excess free radicals in the body. It is a key risk factor for many eye conditions.
Free radicals are unstable molecules produced through natural body processes and environmental stressors like sunlight, pollution, smoking, etc. In excess, they can overwhelm and damage cells in the eye over time.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, acting as a protective barrier against oxidative stress. However, antioxidant levels in the eye decline with age. Oxidative damage accumulates, raising risk of diseases like:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the leading cause of blindness in older adults. It damages the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision.
- Cataracts -clouding of the eye’s lens that can blur vision.
- Glaucoma – optic nerve damage that can cause vision loss and blindness.
- Diabetic retinopathy – damage to the retina’s blood vessels in people with diabetes that can severely impair vision.
A diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables may help slow the development of these common age-related eye diseases.
Grapes: A Natural Source of Eye-Friendly Antioxidants
The researchers suggest grapes may be particularly beneficial for protecting the eyes thanks to their rich antioxidant content, including:
- Anthocyanins: These antioxidants give grapes their vivid red/purple/blue colors. They are linked to reduced inflammation and may also help vision by improving night vision and adjust to changes in light levels.
- Catechins: These antioxidants have been shown to accumulate in the eye and absorb damaging blue and ultraviolet light that can contribute to macular degeneration.
- Resveratrol: This polyphenol is thought to support healthy blood flow and may also prevent abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina.
- Vitamin C: This essential antioxidant vitamin is abundant in grapes. It helps neutralize free radicals and is vital for collagen production, which keeps capillaries and other ocular tissues strong.
By boosting antioxidants in the blood and eye tissues, regular grape consumption may reinforce the eyes against oxidative damage that threatens sight.
Simple Steps to Make Grapes Part of Your Routine
Reaping the eye health benefits from grapes is as easy as incorporating a serving into your daily diet.
Here are simple ways to get started:
- Enjoy a small bowl of grapes as a snack between meals.
- Add grapes to a fresh fruit salad.
- Pair grapes with cheese and nuts for an antioxidant-rich appetizer.
- Freeze grapes for a sweet summer treat.
- Drink 100% grape juice with breakfast.
- Roast grapes drizzled with olive oil, balsamic, and herbs for a side dish.
Aim for around 1 to 1.5 cups of grapes per day. And be sure to eat the skins, which contain the highest concentration of protective plant compounds.
By making grapes a regular part of your balanced diet, you may support eye health and vision as you age.