Best Vitamins and Minerals for Eye Health
Eyes may be the windows to the soul but they are also the magnificently complex organ through which we see the world. Sight is considered essential by many—in fact, a survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society found over seventy percent of Americans in the 45-65 year old age group ranked sight as the most important sense (1). But no matter our age, keeping our eyes healthy is vital to the process of sight.
Adequate nutrition is vital to the health of all of our organs, including our eyes, so being mindful of what we eat and supplementing what we don’t consume is a well trodden path to health. While not all eye disorders can be linked to poor nutrition some, including night blindness can and nutrition is one aspect of our lives we have considerable control over.
So which vitamins and minerals are necessary for optimum eye health?
It’s impossible to talk about vision health without mentioning vitamin A. When found in foods, vitamin A is called beta carotene. Beta carotene is a carotenoid responsible for the orange color of vegetables, including carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. It is a powerful antioxidant and the building block of the protein rhodopsin, which the eye needs to see in low light conditions.
In people with vitamin A deficiencies, a condition called night blindness may occur, which makes it difficult to see in dim light or at night. Vitamin A may also play a role in keeping the eyes lubricated.
The best evidence for a link between beta carotene and vision health comes from the AREDS 1 trial, in which participants received 17mg (28,640 IU) and saw their risk of developing advanced age related macular degeneration lower. (1)
Despite it being essential for eye health, if you are trying to reverse or treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), vitamin A won’t help restore your vision. A 2017 review found no statistically relevant link between beta carotene supplementation and an improvement of symptoms of AMD.
Lutein is another carotenoid that is important for vision. Unlike beta carotene, lutein is found in green leafy vegetables like kale and broccoli and in egg yolks.
A small, double blind placebo controlled pilot study found that supplementation with 15mg of lutein seemed to improve vision in people with cataracts.
Participants were studied over the course of two years and in the group that received lutein three times a week, visual acuity was improved, compared to the decrease or no change in acuity seen with the control groups (2).
Lutein also may act as an antioxidant, in addition to reducing damage to the retina by blocking blue light. (1)
Zinc is an incredibly important mineral in the body. In addition to its role in immune function it acts as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals and neutralizing the oxidative stress they cause. Zinc also is essential to the structure and function of cell membranes in the eye (1) and plays a role in transferring vitamin A from the liver to the retina.
Usually notable for their role in the energy systems of the body and cell metabolism, various B vitamins are being linked to vision health.
A large study, conducted over several years (an average of seven) found a combination of folic acid (vitamin B9) , Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration in women (3).
Observational studies have noticed there seems to be a link between a niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency and the development of glaucoma (4). The same authors noted that “proper diet counseling” may be a modifiable risk factor in patients with glaucoma.
A-tocopherol is the main form of vitamin E found in and used by the body. Its main job is as an antioxidant, specifically protecting fatty tissue from being destroyed. The retinas contain a high concentration of fatty acids so scientists believe vitamin E may be of particular importance to maintaining the health and function of the eye. (1)
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
In addition to their many other beneficial roles in the body, Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to improve symptoms in people with dry eye syndrome, with sixty five percent of participants reporting improvement. DHA, one of the common omega-3 fatty acids, is found in the retina itself, and may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. (1)
Antioxidants help scavenge free radicals everywhere in the body, including in the eyes. Berries and citrus are a great source of antioxidants and may have beneficial properties of their own. Dark berries, including blueberries and bilberries, are coloured by anthocyanosides, compounds that are both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Bilberry is of special interest when talking about eye health due to a preliminary animal study that showed that bilberry reduced corneal damage caused by ultraviolet radiation (5).
Grape seed extract is also notable for its relation to vision health—it was shown to protect lens cells from oxidative stress, which may delay cataract formation (6).
Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant powerhouse, and it may boost the effectiveness of other antioxidants, namely vitamin E, by regenerating them.
You might have noticed that many of these vitamins are important because they are antioxidants—that is because oxidative stress is a major factor in disease. We can increase our intake of antioxidants through diet or, if that isn’t enough (or we have a weakness for less healthful food) dietary supplements.
A perfect supplement, packed with vital antioxidants and especially designed for eye health is Life Vitality Ultra Eye and Vision Support. It contains plenty of vitamin A and zinc, in addition to bilberry and grape seed extract for extra antioxidant power. It also contains NAC, a compound found to reduce oxidative stress caused by intraocular pressure (7).
Don’t neglect one of your most precious organs—minimize oxidative stress, protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation, and take your vitamins!
Thank you for taking the time to read Best Vitamins and Minerals for Eye Health
Please note: All information presented to you in this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. We cannot, and will not give you medical advice. We strongly recommend you consult your physician for any and all specific health issues. If you have any questions or contributions, please contact us via email or phone-call. We are constantly looking for new information to promote wellness – and hearing from you would make our day.
Lutein, but not alpha-tocopherol, supplementation improves visual function in patients with age-related cataracts: a 2-y double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study
Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study
Dietary Niacin and Open-Angle Glaucoma: The Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
Effects of Bilberry on Deoxyribonucleic Acid Damage and Oxidant-Antioxidant Balance in the Lens, Induced by Ultraviolet Radiation
Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract protects human lens epithelial cells from oxidative stress via reducing NF-кB and MAPK protein expression
Retinal oxidative stress induced by intraocular hypertension in rats may be ameliorated by brimonidine treatment and N-acetyl cysteine supplementation