When I was younger, I remember that the common wisdom was that eating carrots was good for your eyes. That was about it. The opinion of the medical community was that nutrition, diet and/or supplementation was not beneficial for eye health and was in fact a waste of money. Of course, this was no different than the general medical wisdom of 45 years ago, which said to just eat the standard American diet and you would be fine. We know now that that advice was simplistic and ill-informed. Science is finally revealing the benefits of nutrition throughout the human system including the eyes. Doesn’t it just make sense that tissues that are well nourished will do better than those that are not? People will do better when they are well nourished.
When it comes to vision and eye health, people are very concerned, especially as we age. Fear of losing one’s sight is a common anxiety for many people, especially seniors. This becomes critical when one is facing issues such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The question is, “Can nutrition (diet and/or supplementation) have a positive effect on AMD?” I need to reemphasize that nutrition does not treat or cure any eye disease including AMD. What food and supplements do is deliver nutrients to the body. It is the body that uses nutrients to maintain and normalize cellular and tissue function. Let the doctors treat your disease. You should focus on nourishing your body with the specific nutrients that have been shown to provide the benefits you seek. Drugs do not nourish the body and nutrients are not drugs. Please don’t confuse the two. You will have more success when you understand this distinction.
There have been numerous scientific and clinical studies that have revealed the benefits of certain nutrients for eye health, and specifically AMD and the history of some of these studies. The studies that most experts refer to is called AREDS and AREDS-2 (Age-Related Eye Disease Study). These two studies were sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). So these are serious studies. In a nutshell the studies revealed “taking the formulation reduced the rate of advanced AMD in people at high risk by about 25 percent over a 6-year period.”
Here is a quote from the American Optometric Association:
“Adding powerful antioxidants to your diet can improve your eye health. There’s no substitute for the quality of life good vision offers. Adding certain nutrients to your daily diet — either through foods or supplements — can help preserve your vision. Researchers have linked eye-friendly nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc, to reducing the risk of certain eye diseases.”
Lutein and Zeaxanthin – Lutein and zeaxanthin are important nutrients found in green leafy vegetables, as well as other foods, such as eggs. Many studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. Scientific evidence suggests vitamin C lowers the risk of developing cataracts. Also, when taken in combination with other essential nutrients, it can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.
Vitamin E – Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant found in nuts, fortified cereals and sweet potatoes. Research indicates it protects cells in the eyes from unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy tissue.
Essential Fatty Acids – Fats are a necessary part of the human diet. They maintain the integrity of the nervous system, fuel cells and boost the immune system. Research shows omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper visual development and retinal function.
Zinc – Zinc is an essential trace mineral or “helper molecule.” It plays a vital role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and choroid, the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina.
Pay attention to the health of your eyes. Take action at the first sign of trouble. These nutrients are critical if you seek to stabilize your eyes and/or slow any progression. You will do better if your eyes are well nourished.