Eye Nutrition & Diet
Many latest studies on the nutrition for the eyes lead back to reporting what our great-grandmothers always believed in -
‘Eat lots of greens and fresh fruit’;
‘Stay out of too much sun’
and ‘Go out and get some fresh air’.
What recent studies now add to their reports is the mantra
‘Drink plenty of water’
and ‘Omega 3’s are good for you’. Read more >>>
When looking after your eyes, you should take a wholesome approach to assessing what is natural in maintaining the good health of your body. The eyes are part of your body, hence many health conditions can be often be detected through the changes within the eyes e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis. Most of us are born healthy with an ideal weight and healthy genes but we sabotage our bodies because of our ignorance and ‘following the herd’ on our adopted lifestyles. We then justify the poor living and ignore the signals our body gives out to us until we can no longer sense those signals. Some studies have also shown that although we may inherit certain genes that could lead to eye and health conditions, they may not necessarily manifest or we may be able to delay their manifestation if we choose to live healthily.
The specific vitamins and minerals that have been identified as possibly playing an important part in maintaining the good health of your eyes are:
- Vitamin A - This vitamin is found in dark green and yellow vegetables such as carrots, squash, broccoli, spinach,peas and animal sources such as cheese, eggs, oily fish such as mackerel, milk, low fat yogurts. Read more >>>
This vitamin helps vision in dim light.
- Vitamin C - Sources include oranges, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peppers, parsley, kale, blackcurrants and papaya. Read more >>>
This is the legendary vitamin that is known for its antioxidant properties. Anti-oxidants protect cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. These free radicals often arise from the way your body breaks down fat or from environmental exposure to pollution, smoke and ultraviolet light. Studies have shown that these anti-oxidants can have a protective effect on the eyes. Sources include oranges, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peppers, parsley, kale, blackcurrants and papaya.
- Zinc - Sources of Zinc are wheat (germ and bran) and various seeds (sesame, poppy, alfalfa, celery, mustard). Zinc is also found in beans, nuts, almonds, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, blackcurrant, dairy products and fortified cereals. Read more >>>
This is an essential mineral and is thought to play a part in the speedy repair of cells post injury and boosting the immune system. Zinc has been included with other antioxidants in the previous ARED study that shows a benefit in certain groups of people with Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
- Vitamin E - Nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, wheatgerm oil, dry roasted sunflower seeds and almonds are the best source of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol). Significant amounts of this are also found in leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals. Read more >>>
This is another significant anti-oxidant. Studies have shown that vitamin E in conjunction with the other antioxidants and beta-carotene could have beneficial effects on the eyes.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin - Lutein and Zeaxanthin sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, egg yolk, corn, red and orange peppers and oranges. Other fruits and vegetables that include these nutrients are peas, beetroot, squash, red grapes, lima beans, apricots, kiwi, sweet potatoes and papaya. Read more >>>
These micronutrients are considered essential to the health of our eyes. They belong to a group of compounds called carotenoids and are precursors to vitamin A. They give a yellow, green and orange colouration to vegetables and fruits. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in the macular pigment (macula is the central, most vital part of your retina and hence vision). There are several studies that show that diets rich in these micronutrients can protect against the development of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the over 50’s in the western world.
- Omega 3 fatty acids - Sources are flaxeed, walnuts and oily fish such as mackerel and salmon. Read more >>>
These have been found to promote healthy vision by protecting against oxidative stress of the cells of the eyes.
For more information on latest studies on the effects of ARMD: Links to the AREDS and AREDS2 studies. Read more >>>
AREDS: Age-related eye disease study research group (AREDS report no. 8). Arch Ophthalmol 2001; 119(5): 1417-1436. Age-related eye disease study research group (AREDS report no. 8). Arch Ophthalmol 2001; 119(5): 1417-1436.)
In addition to having a good diet rich in the above vitamins, studies recommend:
- Stop smoking - Read more >>>
There is enough evidence out there as to the detrimental effects of smoking on our bodies, let alone the eyes. Smoking is the one consistent factor in causing acceleration in the progression of degenerative changes on the eyes. Although eliminating a long-standing habit can be a daunting aspect for most, it is worthwhile considering the alternatives of sight loss, hospital appointments and increased dependency on others.
- Ultraviolet and blue light protection - Read more >>>
This causes oxidative stress on the eyes. Consider wearing a brimmed hat or cap more often and wear full UV protective sunglasses.
- Maintaining good weight - Read more >>>
High lipid diets and obesity are risk factors to causing degenerative changes to the eyes. Therefore, avoid fatty foods and exercise regular.
- Routine eye examinations - Read more >>>
Early detection and treatment of any health condition usually results in better prognosis.
It is important to take your general health into account when altering your diet habits or taking vitamin supplements. It is prudent to discuss especially nutritional supplements with your optometrist or general practitioner to rule out possible interactions. Read more >>>
- If you are diabetic, do not increase you fruit intake as most fruits are very high in their sugar content even though you may think that it is ‘ natural sugar’. Choose instead to eat the vegetables that are high in vitamin C such as broccoli, spinach, and kale. Parsley is also high in this vitamin.
- If you are a smoker avoid large doses of beta-carotene. There is some suggestion that it can increase the risk of developing lung cancer in smokers. However, there are supplements specifically designed for smokers without the beta-carotene. Please discuss this with the optometrist, doctor.
- There has been a study that reported that high daily doses of vitamin E could cause an increased risk of prostate cancer. However, other trials have shown this is not the case. The large trials (AREDS) on vitamin/ nutrient supplementation have not shown this to be a concern and hence vitamin E has been included in the latest on-going trials- AREDS2. Also, high vitamin E intake could possibly interact with cholesterol lowering drugs or blood thinning drugs such as warfarin. Generally, a good diet with vitamin E is unlikely to cause any such interactions. If there is any concern regarding this, you may wish to discuss this with your doctor.
You can find some delicious recipes on our College of Optometrists website: http://lookafteryoureyes.org/eye-care/advice/diet/
There are several supplements on the market that claim to promote healthy vision. One such supplement has shown in a particular group of patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) (AREDS study LINK Age-related eye disease study research group (AREDS report no. 8). Arch Ophthalmol 2001; 119(5): 1417-1436. Age-related eye disease study research group (AREDS report no. 8). Arch Ophthalmol 2001; 119(5): 1417-1436. ) to be of benefit in slowing down the progression of the condition. Although the trials are still on-going for these supplements (ARED2), leading ophthalmologists are now recommending nutritional supplements to certain groups of people with ARMD.
Remember, supplements should never replace a healthy diet. However, for specific conditions such as ARMD, the recommended daily amounts *of fruits, vegetables and fish may not be possible to uptake due to cost, general health conditions, convenience or taste. In such cases, the AREDS nutritional supplements could be considered. * Read more >>>
- 500 mg of vitamin C
- 400 IUs of vitamin E
- 15 mg of beta-carotene
- 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide
- 2 mg of copper as cupric oxide
The AREDS nutritional formula included:
The AREDS nutritional formula is found in supplements such as Bausch and Lomb Ocuvite and Ocuvite Complete (under latest research) and Alcon- I Caps. Note, smokers and ex-smokers should not take the nutritional supplements with betacarotene.
Come in and discuss with our optometrist which supplement would be most suitable for you.
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