A Healthy Diet For Healthy Eyes

by Jennifer LH Murphy, OD // January - February - March 2023

It seems everywhere you look, there are vitamins and supplements that claim to improve your eye health. Studies have shown that there are many that do promote healthy eyes, and some may even help to decrease the risk of vision threatening diseases. A nutrient-rich diet may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, dry eye, and even night blindness.

VITAMIN A: Vitamin A possesses some antioxidant characteristics that can help slow or reverse damage to your DNA and cells. It helps your eyes produce pigments that make it possible to see the full spectrum of light. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, as well as a damaging form of dry eye. Vitamin A is found in leafy green vegetables, eggs, and orange foods like sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, and carrots. That’s right, the magic carrot helps you see! Contrary to popular belief, carrots do not improve your vision (sorry, rabbits) but they are good for the health of your eyes. So, to maintain optimal eye health, keep munching on those carrots during your busy day.

VITAMIN C: Vitamin C, another antioxidant, may also help with dry eye and reduce the risk of age-related eye disease. Like vitamin A, it can also help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin C is found in oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, red and green peppers, and broccoli.

VITAMIN E: Vitamin E can also aid in reducing the risk of age-related eye damage, as well as macular degeneration, cataracts, and dry eye – especially when taken along with vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: These can be very helpful in treating inflammation caused by chronic dry eye. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help address the dryness associated with Lasik. The recommended dose is at least 1,000 milligrams each day.

LUTEIN: Lutein helps to protect against UV damage to the eyes. It is concentrated in the lens of the eye and the macula of the retina, where its antioxidant effects may help to prevent damage. Research indicates lutein – found in grapes, spinach, kiwis, and eggs – plays an important role in delaying the onset of macular degeneration.

Research has shown that people with signs of early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) might benefit most from vitamins for the eyes. Studies have determined that taking certain vitamins in high concentrations slows the progression of this condition in a large percentage of people. However, the study notes that taking these vitamins can only slow the disease. Unfortunately, no vitamins can prevent it from forming in the first place. The National Eye Institute’s most recent guidelines for AMD in their AREDS 2 study (Age Related Eye Disease Study) gives the following recommendations:
– 500 milligrams vitamin C;
– 400 IU vitamin E;
– 2 milligrams copper;
– 80 milligrams zinc;
– 10 milligrams lutein;
– 2 milligrams zeaxanthin.
This combination can be found in multiple supplements.

There are risks to vitamins and eye supplements and they are not designed to replace a healthy diet or lifestyle. For example, vitamins A and E are fat-soluble vitamins. If these are ingested in excess, it may result in hypervitaminosis, which can damage the liver and cause other issues, such as headaches and skin problems. Omega-3 fatty acids may interact with blood thinners. Any vitamin or supplement may potentially interact with current medications and result in unfavorable side effects. Before taking any supplements, discuss them with your doctor to ensure they are right for you personally and check for interactions with your current medications.

Jennifer LH Murphy, OD

With McPherson Family Eye Care, located at 3150 Rogers Rd., Suite 110 in Wake Forest.