Nutrition & Eye Health

Nutrition & Eye Health
Most of us would agree that good vision significantly improves our quality of life, but did you know that adding certain foods and nutrients to your regular diet can help to maintain your vision? Research has shown that consuming vitamins and minerals such as lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids help to maximize your eye health and lower your risk of certain eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential because our bodies cannot produce them. They must be ingested through the foods we eat. Omega-3 is important for optimal brain and nervous system health, boosting the immune system, and for visual development and health of the retina. 

  • Omega-3 can be most easily acquired through certain kinds of fatty fish, but also from plant-based foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, flax and nuts. In order to meet Health Canada’s omega-3 guidelines, most of us need to consume a dietary supplement. 
  • Sources of omega-3 fatty acids are quite varied in quality and formulation. The body best absorbs the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and its precursor eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA is needed for the integrity of retinal cells and has been shown to promote retinal development and repair in prior studies.

Fat-soluble vitamins A, C, and E are essential for optimal eye health. 

  • Vitamin A, found in whole milk, cheese, and beef supports the growth of the protective mucous membranes of the eye, thus reducing the risk of infection.
  • Vitamin C, plentiful in dark leafy greens, citrus fruit, broccoli, and berries lowers the risk of cataract formation. When combined with other nutrients, vitamin C also reduces the risk of macular degeneration. 
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can be found in nuts and sweet potatoes. It is responsible for protecting the cells of the eye and body from molecules called free radicals that damage healthy tissues.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are important nutrients that act as antioxidants and counteract the effects of detrimental short-wavelength blue light that can speed up the progression of macular degeneration and cataracts.

  • These nutrients can be found in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, orange peppers, egg yolk and grapes.

Overall, what is good for our bodies is good for our eyes. Eating a nutrient-rich diet that supports vascular and neurological functions will be beneficial to your body, and your eyes. Taking ocular or multivitamins may compliment your daily diet for the following reasons:

  • Eating fresh produce and healthy foods that are not highly processed are the first choice in reaching your nutrient needs. However, at times it can be difficult to have all your meals contain all the healthy food groups, and to have balanced amounts of all required nutrients. 
  • As we age, our bodies may not absorb all nutrients equally, and some medications can similarly reduce absorption. As a result, properly attaining the highest levels of vitamins and minerals to ensure our healthiest state can be difficult to achieve from diet alone.
  • If your optometrist has identified you have risk factors, or signs of macular degeneration, you may be advised to supplement your daily diet with the appropriate ocular vitamins.

It is best to use vitamin brands that adhere to formulations designed from the internationally recognized Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS and AREDS2), sponsored by the National Eye Institute. It is best to stay with brands that have known quality controls and safe ingredient resources.

AREDS formulas include an appropriate balance of lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C and vitamin E, and copper and zinc. Most nutrients work best in combination with other nutrients, so taking single nutrients is not as well studied. It is understood that the specific vitamins and nutrients may play a key role in reducing inflammation and oxidative changes associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including chronic and age-related eye problems.

Ocular vitamins have higher doses of certain vitamins than in general multivitamin formulations. Please make sure you consult your optometrist, family doctor, or pharmacist if you also need other vitamins to ensure you do not take too much of one thing.

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