Leafy Greens to Prevent Glaucoma

Jan 20, 2016
Tagged with: Leafy Greens to Prevent Glaucoma

We all know that leafy greens are good for your diet, but their value has just been reinforced by a study that found a measurable decrease in glaucoma rates among those who ate a lot of them.(1) Today, we’re going to explore the impact of this finding – and, more importantly, how it can help you.

Glaucoma’s Big Problems

The number-one problem with glaucoma is that the damage is irreversible – followed shortly by the fact that patients can suffer vision loss for years before realizing that anything goes wrong. These two issues are why glaucoma is often referred to as a “silent thief”, and it’s especially inconvenient because treatment is most effective if it begins early.

As such, anything we can do to prevent glaucoma is worthwhile – and this study is a major indicator that it can be prevented in at least some cases.

How Can Leafy Greens Prevent Glaucoma?

Leafy greens are rich in nitrates, a special chemical that helps regulate pressure within the human body. Since glaucoma’s main effect is increasing pressure beyond what the eye can handle, anything that helps the body regulate this is worth studying – and the study in question found that a diet rich in nitrates could reduce the risk of glaucoma by 20% to 30% after adjustment for all other factors.

(Note that this reduced risk is mainly for Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, the most common type – other forms of glaucoma may have different causes, and as such were not covered in the study)

Where We’re At Today

With the addition of this study, it’s time to take a look at our collected knowledge and see where we’re at – and what you can do to protect yourself.


Cause: Unknown, but suspected to be genetic in origin, since we’ve discovered fifteen different genes related to the condition. External forces can also contribute to glaucoma, especially if they damage the eye’s structure and ability to regulate its pressure. A genetic component would also explain why certain groups – especially those of African descent – are significantly more vulnerable.


Prevention: As with many conditions, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise seem like the best way to reduce the odds of glaucoma occurring. In particular, a diet rich in nitrates – available through leafy greens like kale, lettuce, celery, and spinach – can help give your body the tools it needs to regulate internal pressure and stop glaucoma from happening.


Detection: The best way to detect glaucoma is by having an eye exam every year or two, preferably including a dilated eye exam so the doctor can actively check for glaucoma. We cannot overemphasize how important it is that these exams be performed on a regular basis – early detection allows for the most successful methods of treatment, and you will not be able to tell when you first develop glaucoma.


Treatment: If glaucoma occurs anyway, treatment is based around the idea of constantly regulating pressure within the eye. These days, that usually includes using eye drops or certain kinds of oral medication – as long as pressure can be kept within the safe zone, glaucoma will have little or no chance to cause additional damage. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but in most cases it can be treated well enough to let you enjoy your vision for the rest of your life.


1 – JAMA Ophthalmol. Published ’Association of Dietary Nitrate Intake With Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma’ 14, Jan 2016

2 – New Jersey Glaucoma Treatment Specialists ‘Primary open-angle glaucoma’ as definition, 2015

3 – National Institutes of Health ‘Researchers discover three glaucoma-related genes’ 11, Jan. 2016

4 – Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science ‘Comparison of Risk Factor Profiles for Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma Subtypes Defined by Pattern of Visual Field Loss: A Prospective Study’ April 2015



Author: Mark Kirkpatrick

  • bobl07

    It is interesting how people typically do not eat leafy greens, if they only knew. Thanks for letting us know.

  • windyh2o

    Does one carry more nitrates than another? Or would you say they all carry the same amount of percentage. What is a good source to list out the leafy greens.