A report from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) in the UK, says obese adults and children have twice the risk of losing their sight from a range of degenerative eye conditions.
Britain, along with many other developed countries, has an increasing number of obese people and one in five adults and children in the UK is now considered to be obese.
The situation is such that the Department of Health recently warned that as many as a third of men in England would be obese by 2010 if no measures were taken to tackle the problem.
The RNIB report says obesity is already recognized as one of the leading preventable causes of death from heart disease and diabetes but it is also a key factor in sight loss.
The report says obese people have an increased risk of developing three major causes of sight loss:
- age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition affecting the retina which is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK
- diabetic retinopathy, a progressive blurring of vision developed by 60 percent of type 2 diabetes sufferers
- cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens responsible for one in four cases of sight loss in people over 75
It also says obese people double their chances of suffering AMD and cataracts, as well as having up to 10 times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The RNIB recommends people maintain a healthy weight, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, take exercise to improve general health, don't smoke and most importantly have regular eye tests, in order to safeguard their sight.
Barbara McLaughlan, the lead author of the RNIB report says sight is the one sense people most fear losing, but most don't do nearly enough to look after their eyes.
She says many thousands of people lose their sight each year through conditions that could have been treated if picked up early enough through an eye test.
People are classed as obese if their body mass index (BMI), defined as their weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters, is 30 or above.