Eyes and Obesity

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published February 18, 2021

Obesity is a global medical epidemic, research clearly shows the direct correlation between obesity and eye diseases.

Studies show that obesity increases the risk of serious eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, wet macular degeneration and glaucoma.

It is well known that obesity can affect health in numerous ways, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease— but few understand the impact obesity can have on eye health and vision.

Researchers at the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistent correlation between obesity and the development of serious and sight-threatening eye conditions as well as strokes and other vascular diseases.

Obesity statistics

Obesity has become a world-wide medical epidemic— consider these statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO):

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
  • More than 39% adults (ages 18 and older) are overweight
  • Over 13% of all adults are obese
  • Over 20% of children and adolescents (ages 5-19) are overweight or obese

What is considered a healthy weight?

Every person is different and therefore, your “healthy weight goals” will be different than your friend’s.

To determine if you are a healthy weight for your height and age, your doctor will calculate your body mass index (BMI).

A BMI score is calculated based on tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) and height, and is measured as kg/m2.

BMI scores are generally interpreted as follows:

  • Underweight: under 18.5 kg/m2
  • Normal weight: 18.6 to 24.9 kg/m2
  • Overweight: 25 to 29.9 kg/m2
  • Obese: over 30 kg/m2

However, it is important to keep in mind that since every person is different, these numbers may not be a clear indication of a healthy weight. For example, someone who is very muscular may have a high BMI because muscle weighs more than fat, but this doesn’t mean that he is obese.

Therefore, it is always best to speak with your doctor or nutritionist to determine your individual weight goals.

How does obesity affect the eyes?

The primary impact obesity has on the body is the increased risk of peripheral artery disease and diabetes.

These diseases can cause significant damage to the eyes, kidneys and feet.

When it comes to the eyes, obesity can cause serious sight-threatening retinal diseases. These diseases develop when the tiny blood vessels in the eyes become weakened and can no longer supply oxygen and other essential nutrients to the ocular region.

When the eyes are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, a variety of eye conditions can develop, including:

How to maintain a healthy weight 

Leading an active lifestyle and consuming a well balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall health— and your ocular health as well.

Working with a nutritionist who understands your weight goals and can teach you how to eat healthy, nutritious meals that will help you to lose weight is strongly encouraged.

Certain essential nutrients such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega-3, zinc, and lutein have been shown to protect the eyes and prevent eye disease. Speak to your nutritionist about ways to incorporate these nutrients into your diet.

Consider joining a gym or fitness class to encourage your new healthy habits. Studies show that recruiting an exercise partner or joining an exercise class with similar fitness goals, will encourage you to stick to your exercise routine.

While keeping an eye on your weight and maintaining an active lifestyle can help to reduce your risk of disease, having regular eye exams is just as crucial.

With annual eye exams, your eye doctor can identify early signs of eye disease and offer effective treatments to keep your eyes healthy and preserve your vision.

Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce your risk of developing serious eye diseases in the future…so why not begin now?