Brazil is one of the biggest consumers of processed sugar in the world -with an intake of around 500 calories per day, according to Harvard University. That’s five times more than the recommended 6 teaspoons per day the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends.
And Brazilians are suffering as a result. As well as the obvious sugar related problems such as obesity and diabetes to contend with, people in Brazil are being plagued by an unusually high number of heart and eye diseases. The culprit? SUGAR!
The ophthalmologist from the Penido Burnier Institute, Leoncio Queiroz Neto, states that prior to the scales, the eyes can signal that sugar consumption is very high in people who have no predisposition to gain weight.
Eye problems triggered by hyperglycemia go far beyond the already known diabetic retinopathy. “Adults who have never used glasses and suddenly begin to have blurry sight at distance, should do a blood test,” he warns.
This is because the increase of glucose in the bloodstream may induce myopia by causing swelling of the crystalline natural lens of the eye responsible for focusing the images.
Not coincidentally, he points out, it is common for diabetics to reach the office believing that they need to change the glasses. In many cases it is only a fluctuation in refraction due to poorly controlled blood glucose. Changing the glasses does not help. When blood glucose is under control the glasses correct the eyesight.
The loss of glycemic control in Brazil is larger than imaginable. VIGITEL 2014 (Risk and Protective Factors for Chronic Diseases Surveillance through telephone interviews), an annual survey conducted by the Ministry of Health since 2006, shows that 18.1% of Brazilians eat sweets daily being 15.6% of the male population and 20.3% of women.
According to Queiroz Neto increasing and reducing the thickness of the lens caused by fluctuating blood sugar predisposes to the formation of cataracts, clouding of the lens. Today, the operation is the only way to remove cataracts.
The expert says that the ideal for diabetics is laser surgery. This is because the technique makes precise cuts and a self-sealing slant releasing the closure points. This precision, he highlights, reduces the risk of the procedure, speeds recovery and prevents visual distortion caused by irregular healing that can occur in the conventional method.
The ophthalmologist points out that another ocular disorder resulting from the loss of glycemic control is glaucoma. “The disease occurs because increasing the thickness of the lens in some people hinders the flow of aqueous liquid that fills the eye, and leads to increased intraocular pressure characteristic of glaucoma,” he explains.
Treatment is with eye drops to maintain normal intraocular pressure. Glaucoma, he points out, is the second leading cause of permanent blindness in the world. If the drops are not used properly it results in the loss of the visual field until complete blindness occurs.
The most dreaded eye disease resulting from hyperglycemia is the retinopathy that usually appears after 10 years of living with diabetes.
The expert says that the retinopathy results from the obstruction of retinal vessels. Initially it leads to decreased vision and spotting when it reaches the macula, the central portion of the retina responsible for detailed vision. As it progresses, it can lead to the formation of new vessels.
Being weaker, these new vessels can rupture and cause major bleeding in the back of the eye that leads to permanent blindness.
Queiroz Neto warns that some foods increase the risk of clogged arteries and vessels. They are those which combine glucose and fructose such as soft drinks, processed fruit juices, among others.
This is because when this cocktail falls in the liver it is converted into fat. To keep the vision, the ophthalmologist recommends checking the composition of foods. Whenever they combine sugar and fructose there is more of a risk for circulation, including the eyes.
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