In September 2018, Stargardt’s Connected organised a Nutrition Chat for Stargardt’s families. The aim was to discuss what are the questions and concerns people have about nutrition and its effect on Stargardt’s. The discussion was led by Dr Andi Skilton from NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre and Dr Rosie Gilbert, an Ophthalmologist from Moorfields Eye Hospital.
As a summary, the main points from the discussion were:
- It is important not to completely cut out Vitamin A from our diets as it is needed for the functioning of other parts of the body.
- There is no evidence that ‘natural’ vitamin A precursors in food e.g. betacarotene found in naturally orange foods such as carrots and oranges or their juice, or green vegetables, can cause problems in the retina, so it is not necessary to stop eating these foods.
- It is best to avoid Vitamin A supplements (either isolated or as part of multi-vitamins) as these will contain a relatively high dose of Vitamin A compared to what is taken in a normal diet
- Preformed or synthetic vitamin A found as additives in food, or stored in high concentration in animal organs, such as liver, might be avoided, where possible – for example, by choosing higher quality minced meat such as minced steak, which has lower offal and synthetic additive content. Look out for products which may be fortified with vitamins and minerals e.g. breakfast cereals and avoid if it is fortified with Vitamin A.
- Foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to be good for the macula, and include foods such as green leafy vegetables like kale. Lutein is best absorbed with fat so the best way to cook foods such as kale is to cook it in oil.
- Certain popular ‘superfoods’ such as turmeric and saffron may have general health benefits due to antioxidant content, but we do not advise people to take an excessive intake, just to enjoy as part of a healthy diet with lots of fresh, unprocessed food.
- Most importantly, it is best to have a well-balanced and healthy diet and a positive attitude towards the food we eat.
While there isn’t any conclusive research about what people with Stargardt’s should and shouldn’t eat, Stargardt’s Connected will be liaising with some experts in nutrition to help put together a leaflet that will include some recommendations based on best current thinking.