Carbohydrates and Insulin
By Joachim Bartoll, December 2016, for Classic Muscle Newsletter #28, January 2017
In Issue 24 of CMN, I wrote about the new epidemic of nearsightedness (myopia). We dismissed the belief that myopia is hereditary and looked at the most common reasons for distorted vision – the lack of natural sunshine and our recently developed habit of looking at screens and other stuff right in front of us. Our eyes need to be “exercised” by focusing on objects at various distances. One good practice is the 20-20-20 rule for reducing eye strain, which simply involve a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.
While spending a lot of time indoors and frequently using near-eye devices will dramatically increase your risk of developing nearsightedness, there is another cause for myopia – our modern diet.
Unfortunately, the consequence of our diet in relation to our eyesight is not particularly well-researched, just as most subject within the bastardized pseudo-science of nutrition and “disease”. Most studies are on subjects with diabetes, and it’s from this research we have learned that high blood sugar, (and poorly managed blood sugar), damages our finer blood vessels and capillaries. While many of us knows this, as people with diabetes can get blood vessel and nerve damage in their legs and feet, another very vulnerable part of our body is our eyes.
As mentioned in my previous article, our primal ancestors had perfect vision. They spent most of their time outdoors and they followed a seasonal animal-based diet, mostly ketogenic during winter and semi-ketogenic during the summer and early autumn when perhaps some fruit, berries and other sugary foods were available as a last resort. To be able to see faraway was vital in the hunt for food and to avoid predators. And as we know, myopia is extremely rare among native tribes in remote villages where they still thrive on natural animal-based unprocessed foods (meat, milk, blood and organ meats) and spend most of their time out in nature. Studies show that among indigenous people, rates of myopia are extremely low. But as modern culture reaches these tribes, rates shoot up – from almost nil to sky high in onlyone single generation!
A study of Alaska’s Inuits found that only two out of 131 elders had myopia. Their traditional diet consisted of what they could catch from the ocean, as well as small amounts of seeds and berries during the summer (pretty much a seasonal and fully natural diet).
But more than half of their children and grandchildren were nearsighted1. The change goes hand in hand with the introduction of processed foods in the Inuit community – especially processed foods rich in carbohydrates.
Those refined foods contain a lot of carbohydrates/sugars which is inherently toxic and must be removed from the bloodstream as quickly as possible to avoid damage or even death. All that excess glucose – and your body’s insulin reaction to lower your blood sugar – literally leads to a change of the shape of your eye. It can cause the eyeball to grow and take on an egg-shaped form2,3,4. When that happens, light that enters the lens on the front of the eye has to travel a longer distance to the retina in the back of the eye. This makes it focus somewhere in front of the retina, which makes the image blurred. Combine this with previous research that has shown the same growth-like reaction to lack of sunlight and looking at objects close to us most of the time – and it’s no surprise that nearsightedness is spreading like a wildfire. People focus on objects close to them most of the day, while eating all the wrong foods.
And on top of that, constant changes in blood sugar can damage the delicate tissue and blood vessels in the eye. High levels of blood sugar also make the lens of the eye swell, which causes blurry vision. People with bad insulin sensitivity/carbohydrate tolerance can notice this within an hour or so after a meal rich in carbohydrates.
In one report published by Thomas KE et al., he recommends that doctors check their patients for diabetes before considering refractive eye surgery, as one of his own patients got back his perfect 20/20 vision after getting insulin treatment 4, which got his blood sugar under control.
Anyone with consistently high blood sugar is at risk of serious eye disease – as well as other blood vessel related problems with the prospect of numbness and pain in the extremities (which untreated, can lead to amputations), heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and vision loss.
One study from Tufts University found that people who consume the most sugar-rich carbs increased their risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by up to 42%5. That’s a huge problem because AMD is the most common cause of blindness as you get older.
Unfortunately, mainstream doctors do not understand the link between nutrition and your eyesight – and is therefore most likely to prescribe you a visit to the optician for expensive and totally unnecessary glasses or lenses.
Conclusion and thoughts
To conclude, anyone who have impaired eyesight should first and foremost make sure that they get sufficient time outdoors and then take a look at their diet. Even if you’re into health and fitness and follow what you believe is a ‘healthy’ diet, you might still be consuming carbohydrates or a lot of toxic vegetables. I have experienced this myself in the past when I’ve experimented with high intake of carbohydrates for bodybuilding purposes. First, I thought that my vision got a bit blurred from working and reading too much. However, my vision has always been perfect during fasting and when I’ve been following the ketogenic diet or Intermittent Fasting protocols with most of my carbohydrates before and directly after my training.
So, if you have noticed impaired vision in the last 2, 5 or 10 years while you are physically active and feel good after consuming some carbohydrates (vision is not affected), your problem is probably that your eyes do not get enough sunshine and/or exercise.
In that case, try to get outside several times during the day and also make sure that you focus on objects far away at intervals throughout the day. Also, limit or eliminate carbohydrates in your diet, as they are toxic and your health will eventually suffer.
If you on the other hand feel somewhat sluggish after consuming carbohydrates, or even worse, feel eye-strain or find that your vision gets a bit blurred, you should eliminate all carbohydrates from your diet immediately. Adopting a ketogenic or carnivorous diet may be the best choice.
And if you have family or friends who had to get glasses or lenses, challenge them to take more breaks during the day and to clean up their diet. There’s a good chance their vision will improve within weeks.
References and further reading
1. Transmission of refractive errors within Eskimo families.
Sorsby A, Young FA.
Am J Optom Arch Am Acad Optom. 1970 Mar;47(3):244-9.
2. Near-Sightedness Appears Linked to Excess Sugar in Diet.
Cordain L, Eaton SB, Brand Miller J, Lindeberg S, Jensen C.
Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica March 2002 vol. 80, p 125.
3. Is poor glycaemic control in diabetic patients a risk factor of myopia?
Jacobsen N, Jensen H, Lund-Andersen H, Goldschmidt E.
Acta Ophthalmol. 2008 Aug; 86(5):510-4.
4. Medical considerations before refractive surgery retreatment.
Thomas KE, Tanzer DJ.
J Cataract Refract Surg. 2007 Feb; 33(2):326-8.
5. Association between dietary glycemic index and age-related macular degeneration in nondiabetic participants in the age-related eye disease study.
Chiu C.J., Milton R.C., Gensler G., Taylor A.
Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2007;86:180–188.