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Essential Nutrients to Maintaining Eye Health

What essential nutrients are good for eye health?

When it comes to the best diet for maintaining your eyesight, emerging evidence shows diets rich in certain nutrients may be better than others at preventing two common causes of vision loss: age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Macular degeneration impacts the macula, the central portion of your retina, which can cause blurred or no vision in the centre of the visual field. AMD will not cause blindness, but can cause severe vision problems. Cataracts affect the eye by progressively clouding the clear surface of your crystalline lens in your eye, which causes foggy vision. Like AMD, most cataracts develop slowly over time and as we age. Cloudiness may initially affect a small part of the lens, but as the cataract grows the clouding becomes denser and often worsen symptoms like hazy/blurry vision and trouble seeing in the dark.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) is the result of major clinical trials published by the National Eye Institute. The trials were designed to study natural history and risk factors of AMD and cataracts, and evaluate the impact of certain vitamins and minerals on the progression of those conditions. 

AREDS and other studies found certain vitamins like A, C, and E may reduce the risk of age-related eye disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin were also found to protect our eyes. 

Research has not yet answered the question of how much of these nutrients is optimal to prevent vision problems. However, we can ensure we have adequate levels by including certain foods in our diet. Here is how to ensure good eye health by looking out for these important nutrients:

Vitamins C, E and A

These vitamins are powerful antioxidants that can prevent the development of macular degeneration. The retina, and the macula in particular, represent areas of high oxidative stress. In the macula, there exists a higher concentration of molecules called free radicals, which cause damage to DNA and proteins at the cellular level. Antioxidants can destroy free radicals and protect the retina from macular degeneration. Vitamin C in combination with other nutrients has been found to potentially lower the risk of developing cataracts.

Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and tomatoes. 

Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene occurs in orange, yellow and red fruits and veggies.

Vitamin E sources include sunflower seeds, almonds, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Power antioxidants in their own right, lutein and zeaxanthin have become popular nutrients due to the protection they offer against chronic eye disease. These pigments act as a natural sunblock, shielding the macular cells by absorbing blue and UV light waves while neutralizing free radicals. 

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are known as carotenoids and are found together in food. To get your fix of these two powerful antioxidants seek out leafy, dark green vegetables and foods such as spinach, broccoli, peas and romaine lettuce. Eggs are also an excellent source that also contain Vitamins C, E and Zinc.

Zinc

Zinc holds a key role helping the liver release Vitamin A to produce melanin. In the eyes, melanin acts as a protective pigment. Zinc deficiencies have been linked to macular degeneration, poorer night vision, cloudy cataracts and impaired vision. Natural sources of zinc include legumes such as peanuts and other beans like kidney beans, chickpeas, mung beans and lentils.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that may be particularly important to ocular health. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and there is evidence suggesting inflammation contributes to AMD symptoms. The retinal photoreceptors have also been observed to contain high concentrations of DHA in their makeup. 

Make sure to eat oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel or seek out nuts and legumes rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, flaxseed, chia and hemp seeds.

Prevention and early treatment are key in maintaining healthy eyesight. Anyone noticing changes in their vision should schedule an eye exam with an optometrist to rule out any complications. Within the KODAK Lens Vision Centre clinics, our Optometrists can help develop a customized approach to your eye health over time by offering nutrition recommendations and eye care supplements that contain all the important nutrients you need for your specific eye care conditions.

Eye care supplements are conveniently available in clinic and/or our online store. These supplements are recommended to provide a good balance and concentration of the nutrients you need for your eye health and eye care conditions. The supplements can be easily added to your lifestyle and recommended to be taken every day to strengthen your eye and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration or other conditions. Visit or ask us to learn more.

Read more about the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) here:

https://www.nei.nih.gov/research/clinical-trials/age-related-eye-disease-studies-aredsareds2/aredsareds2-frequently-asked-questions

Read more about diet and nutrition for optimal eye health here:

https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/diet-and-nutrition?sso=y