It would be nice if we all ate a diet of nothing but fruits, whole grains, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods, but the truth is most of us have a few nutritional gaps in our less-than-perfect diet.
While nothing beats getting nourishment from foods, taking vitamin and mineral supplements can help make up for some deficiencies that can be harmful to eye health.
When it comes to nutritional supplements, it’s hard to know which ones are actually beneficial and which ones are just hype. The same holds true for supplements for eye health so it’s important to consider the current research.
The two most influential studies regarding eye health are the AREDS (“Age-Related Eye Disease Study”) and the AREDS2 studies sponsored by the National Eye Institute The studies looked at the effect of two different formulas of daily multivitamin supplements on the development and progression of AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) and cataracts in people ages 55 to 80 with varying stages of the diseases. Both studies found that the supplements had a dramatic effect on those who had a high-risk of vision loss, reducing the risk of progression by around 25 percent. Unfortunately, for those with no AMD or early AMD, or those with cataracts, the supplements had no significant effect.
Vitamins and Minerals for Eyes
There are many specific ingredients in supplements that are known for their benefit to eye health–the most common nutrients being antioxidants because the damage done by reactive oxygen and toxins can worsen age-related diseases such as AMD. The following were included in the AREDS clinical trial multivitamins:
- Beta-carotene – The precursor to Vitamin A, beta-carotene is necessary for night vision. For those who smoke or have smoked, ask your doctor as the supplemental version has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, beef or chicken liver, and kale.
- Vitamin C – The vitamin known for reducing the risk of colds is also associated with reducing the risk of cataracts. Found in oranges, grapefruit, broccoli, and kale.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E is an antioxidant and agent against cataracts and macular degeneration. Found in almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and wheat germ.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin – Included in the AREDS2 study in place of beta-carotene, these plant pigments (carotenoids) may reduce the risk of AMD and cataracts. Found in turnip greens, spinach, and kale.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome.
Before starting a new vitamin regimen, be sure to get the recommendation of your eye doctor, especially if you are pregnant or nursing. While nutritional supplements may not be a magic bullet for every eye health issue, they certainly can go a long way to reducing inflammation and oxidative stress on your eyes and the rest of your body.