Written by Austin Winegar, AsktheScientists.com
Eye health is an often-overlooked aspect in our journey to overall health, but there are some important nutrients out there that can help support healthy vision.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. It supports healthy capillaries, gums, teeth, and cartilage. Vitamin C can be found in virtually every cell in the body, and its concentration is significantly higher in the retina than in the blood. Since the human body does not make vitamin C, it must be consumed as part of the diet.*
Zinc is a trace mineral that is found in high concentrations in the eye. It plays a critical role in transporting vitamin A to the retina.*
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids and both serve as antioxidants, which help to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.*
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fats are an essential part of the human diet. The two families of essential fatty acids are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Most individuals get enough of the essential omega-6 fatty acids; however low intakes of omega-3 fatty acids is common, particularly Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These fatty acids are important in many aspects of health, including: membrane structure, neural development, supporting cardiovascular health, and providing a healthy inflammation response in connection with exercise.*
DHA is found in high concentrations in the retina and it has been shown that DHA helps maintain the health of the retina.*
Over the past two decades, there have been a significant advances in research related to nutrition and eye health. Researchers now have a better understanding of how nutrition helps promote healthy vision.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) is a study that was sponsored by the National Eye Institute to look more in depth at the potential connection between nutrition and eye health.
The study involved 3,640 subjects, age 55-80. The subjects in the test group were administered daily amounts of 500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene (25,000 IU vitamin A), and 80 mg zinc.†
The results showed that supplementation aided in the defense and maintenance of the eye’s structural components, such as the retina. These results have since been confirmed in several smaller studies. In the years since the original AREDS study, new research has also shown beneficial results from lutein, zeaxanthin, DHA, and EPA.
Another landmark study was the Lutein Antioxidant Supplement Study (LAST) published in the journal Optometry. The results of this study showed that through purified lutein supplementation or a supplement mix of lutein and other antioxidants such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene, you can help maintain visual acuity and promote long-term eye health.
Stringham JM, and Hammond BR performed a study on 40 healthy subjects with an average age of 23.9. They were assigned to receive daily supplements of lutein (10 mg) and zeaxanthin (2 mg) for six months. The subjects’ eyes were then tested for the effects of glare as experienced in everyday situations, including being outdoors on bright days, lengthy sessions of looking at a computer monitor, and nighttime exposure to oncoming headlights.
Following six months of supplementation, the participant’s average macular pigment optical density (MPOD) increased significantly from the average value at the beginning of the study. Higher MPOD has been linked to increased visual acuity. After testing the subjects for their performance in visual tasks, researchers concluded that four to six months of supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin significantly improved visual performance in high glare situations.
† Note: 2 mg copper was added to the AREDS formulation to prevent copper deficiency anemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake.
About the Author
Since joining USANA in 2011, Austin Winegar has played an integral role in organizing third-party published research, ensuring the safety and efficacy of USANA’s products, and reviewing all U.S. marketing materials for scientific accuracy. His responsibilities also include researching new ingredients for potential new products, writing articles for https://askthescientists.com, and providing science-based information for the True Health Assessment. Austin graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in biology. In the field of science, his areas of interest focus on sports nutrition, weight loss/maintenance, anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry. To find out more about the importance of nutrition in eye health, please visit here.