Role of Nutrition in Eye Health

There has been a lot of interest in the role of nutrition and nutritional supplements, such as vitamin tablets, and their effect on vision. The main focus has been on how vitamins and minerals might affect age-related eye condition such as age-related macular-degeneration and cataracts.

The Importance of Good Nutrition

Good nutrition is very important for both your general and eye health. Good nutrition helps our body to grow, repair wear and tear, protect against infection and to function properly. An eye condition called ‘Xerophthalmia’, which is a common cause of childhood blindness in developing countries, is a good example of how nutrition and eye health go hand in hand. This condition is caused by a lack of vitamin A in a person’s diet and could be prevented by eating fresh vegetables, fat (animal and plant) and protein such as meat, eggs, cheese, fish, poultry, milk, yogurt, dairy products, grains, etc.

A good diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables, may help protect against macular degeneration in later life. Some studies have shown that a good diet can help in preventing AMD and age-related cataracts.

Vitamins and the eye

Vitamins, which contain antioxidants, have been linked with eye health in various studies and clinical trials. They help to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye.

The main focus has been on the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins can be found in many different sources of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, kiwis, dried apricots, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, spinach. They can also be found in nuts, seeds, dairy products and eggs. These are only a few of the food types in which antioxidant vitamins can be found.

Lutein and Eye Health

More recently it has been suggested that two types of antioxidants, known as carotenoids, called Lutein and Zeaxanthin may also help with eye health. Lutein and Zeaxanthin can be found naturally in vegetables and fruit. For example, Lutein can be found in yellow peppers, mango, bilberries and green leafy vegetables such as Kale, spinach, chard and broccoli. Zeaxanthin can be found in orange sweet peppers, broccoli, corn, lettuce (not iceberg), spinach, tangerines, oranges and eggs. Many of these overlap with food types in which vitamins A, E and C are present.

As a result of various research projects into carotenoids such as Lutein and Zeaxanthin, there are now many different vitamin supplements for eye health on the market. They usually contain the daily-recommended amount of the vitamins and minerals found to be of benefit for eye health.

Evidence regarding the benefits of nutritional supplements against eye disease is conflicting and there is no real agreement among researchers on this subject. However, it’s now well-known that a healthy, balance diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for the health of your eyes.

Remember these key points for healthy eyes:

  • Eat a good, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Discuss how to improve your eye health with your eye doctor
  • Get your eyes tested at least every two years and more frequently if necessary