Article Date: 2/1/2003

Food for Thought
Here's why your patients should think of you when they think of nutrition.

In terms of body weight per capita, I live in one of the heaviest metropolitan areas (Philadelphia) in the heaviest nation the world has ever known. It's not pretty.

The ill effects of the American diet are glaring. (Granted, a percentage of those individuals who are overweight have serious medical conditions aside from the fact that they overeat.) We spend a total of $120 billion each year on diabetes and other diseases caused by obesity.

The skinny on diet

Eleven percent of America's children are classified as overweight and this news doesn't improve with age. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, one out of every three American adults is obese. When a national restaurant chain recommends eating its sandwiches as a way to loose weight, you have to wonder: Just what are we eating now that a diet of subs will make us lose weight?

It's safe to suggest that even the thin among us don't have the best diet. My seven-year-old daughter, who is lean, enjoys Pepsi products, which she can buy from a vending machine in the lobby of her elementary school.

It would be easy to blame the fast food industry or snack food companies for our overweight condition. You might even sue McDonalds on behalf of obese kids as a New York lawyer has done. Unfortunately, all of the lawsuits in the world won't address the fact that there are too few reliable sources of information on nutrition.

The optometrist connection

Judging by sheer volume, most Americans get their information on dieting from the pages of monthly lifestyle magazines. Now I'm not advocating that optometrists become nutritionists or that they go out and wage war against processed foods. However, there is conclusive evidence that proper nutrition can prevent or even reverse many eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye and retinitis pigmentosa.

In this month's issue of Optometric Management, Benjamin Lane, O.D., explains how nutritional supplements can prove beneficial in the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (see his article on page 42). The research of Dr. Lane and other eyecare professionals shows the complexity of finding the right foods and vitamin supplements in the right doses.

A healthy start

Is it reasonable to expect patients to turn to their optometrists for information about nutrition? Where these patients' eyes are concerned, it's reasonable. And it's a far better solution than referring them to the pages of Cosmo or Maxim magazines.


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2003