Vitamins for Eye Health
Every day we’re bombarded with information about keeping in good health. Exercise more. Drink milk. Wear sunscreen of this SPF level plus a hat. Eat more of this and less of that. Like healthy skin and joints, it’s true that the way you treat your body can have an impact on your eye health.
Eye health is important to everyone across all aspects of life, be it your work or play. A myriad of conditions can impact eye health. Such as glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Even dry eye is becoming recognised as a disease with significant impacts on quality of life.
Research has shown that certain vitamins for eye health can be beneficial. For both maintaining comfortable eyes and good vision. Obtaining these is easy through a healthy diet.
Vitamin A and Beta Carotene
Vitamin A is an essential component of the chemicals contained in our rod photoreceptors of the retina. Rod photoreceptors are used for vision in dim lighting. Which is why vitamin A deficiency often first presents as difficulties with night-vision. As part of supporting the health of the retina, beta carotene showed a reduction in the risk of age-related macular degeneration. When taken alongside several other specific vitamins and minerals. This is a plant-derived precursor that converts to vitamin A within the body. There is also evidence that eye health further benefits from vitamin A intake. By way of supporting the health of the cornea and warding off the dry eye. As well as reducing the risk of cataract through antioxidant action.
When thinking of vitamins for eye health, Vitamin C is probably the first that comes to mind. Eating bunches of carrots every day isn’t going to give you superhuman vision. Although, vitamin C’s powerful antioxidant properties can do a lot to support your eye health.
Like vitamin A, a healthy intake of vitamin C has shown reduction in the risk of cataract development. Though no vitamins or medications can prevent cataracts altogether. They are a normal part of ageing. Like beta carotene, a large study investigating nutritional supplementation for age-related macular degeneration found that the inclusion of vitamin C in what is now known as the AREDS2 formulation was beneficial for reducing the risk of macular degeneration.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Although less well-known, these two carotenoids have come to the fore during research into eye health. Particularly the health of the macula, which detects your central vision. The original AREDS clinical trials for macular degeneration noted that beta carotene was beneficial for the macula. But it was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in former and current smokers. This resulted in the AREDS2 formulation replacing beta carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin. Two other plant-based antioxidants. These compounds support eye health by helping to protect retinal cells from oxidative damage.
Another potent antioxidant, vitamin E supports your eye health by protecting the cells of your eyes from oxidative stress. Included in the AREDS2 formulation for age-related macular degeneration. Alongside vitamins A and C, lutein and zeaxanthin. There is some evidence that a high intake of vitamin E may also be protective of eye health by reducing the risk of developing a cataract. Though not all studies support this idea.
Although not technically a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in several aspects of eye health and so are still worth a mention. Western diets have a poor ratio of anti-inflammatory omega-3 to pro-inflammatory omega-6 essential fatty acids. This leads to various problems including cardiovascular disease.
People who have a healthy intake of omega-3 have improved symptoms of dry eye disease. As well as a reduced risk of macular degeneration. Both eye conditions with underlying inflammatory components. Diabetes patients who increase their intake of omega-3 have a lower risk of developing complications. Such as diabetic retinopathy.
A balanced diet should get you adequate supplies of these nutrients to support healthy eyes. Supplements are available if this is not possible. If you’re concerned about your specific risk factors for eye disease, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist. There are steps you can take to protect your vision.
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