Food for Thought – Eye Nutrition
Eye problems are some of the most distressing problems you can have with your body. They can be very painful, and it is very worrying to think that your vision could be deteriorating. People who have problems with their eyes often want to know the role of nutrition on their eyes. It’s thought that vitamins and minerals could affect some age-related eye conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Being well-nourished is important for the health of many different parts of your body. Food helps various parts of your body to grow and repair. The eye is no exception; certain vitamins and minerals help eyes to function properly and remain healthy.
‘Xerophthalmia’ is a common cause of childhood blindness in the developing world, and shows how important being well-nourished is for the health of your eyes. The condition is caused by having a lack of vitamin A in your diet, and can be prevented relatively easily by eating fresh vegetables, fat and protein.
In clinical trials and studies the antioxidant vitamins that are found in some foods have been linked to eye health, indicating that they help to maintain healthy cells and tissue. The main focus of this research has been vitamins A, C and E, which can be found in nuts, seeds, dairy products and eggs as well as many different fruits and vegetables including oranges, grapefruit, kiwis, dried apricots, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, kale, spinach, peas, green beans and everybody’s favourite vegetable, brussel sprouts!
Recently two types of antioxidant, known as “carotenoids”, have been proven to support eye health; Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are concentrated in the eye lens and macula. They protect the macula against free radical damage, and can also help to protect against age-related damage.
Various studies have shown how certain vitamin and mineral supplements can have a positive impact on eyesight and eye health, but the picture is far from complete. Many of the vitamins which are thought to improve eye health are present in an average diet anyway, so whether nutritional supplements can help maintain healthy eyes remains to be seen.
In general, people in the UK do not consume enough vitamins and minerals in their diet, so taking supplements to support eye health could be a good idea, but it will never substitute a healthy diet. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or making changes to your diet.
Other ways to protect your eyes include not smoking and protecting your eyes from bright sunlight with quality sunglasses. Sunglasses will help to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays. Look for shades with the ‘CE’ mark, as that means they met European Quality Standards. You should also get your eyes tested at least every two years.