Feed Your Eyes: the Importance of Nutrition for Visual Health

Feed Your Eyes:  the Importance of Nutrition for Visual Health
Dr. Marc Howard Shomer Ophthalmologist Upland, CA

Dr. Marc Shomer is an ophthalmologist practicing in Upland, California. Dr. Shomer specializes in eye and vision care. As an ophthalmologist, Dr. Shomer can practice medicine as well as surgery. Opthalmologists can perform surgeries because they have their medical degrees along with at least eight years of additional... more

Vision is one of our most precious senses. In a survey, loss of vision is one of the top 3 health concerns for men and women 45-65 years of age, however, most of us do get a regular eye examinations and take ocular health for granted.   

Lutein and zeaxanthin (ZE-ah-zan-thin) are nutrients are highly concentrated in the central retina (known as the macula). Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, and corn. They function to filter harmful high-energy light rays. Low dietary intake of lutein is associated with an increased risk of Wet Macular Degeneration, which is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50.  

The Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was designed to better understand the roles of nutrients in the protection of eye health in patients with Macular Degeneration.  This study enrolled approximately 5,000 patients aged 55-80 years old.  Over a 5-year follow-up period, the patients who received vitamins A, C, E, and zinc showed a 25% decreased risk of progression of their Macular Degeneration and a 19% reduction in vision loss compared to placebo.   

Vitamin A is essential to the retina to sense light and convert it to a signal the brain can understand. Vitamin A can be found in liver, carrots, and broccoli.  Deficiency of vitamin A can produce night-blindness and severe eye dryness.  Caution should be taken when supplementing vitamin A in individuals with a history of smoking or who may be pregnant.  

Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant, also known as ascorbic acid.  It is very highly enriched in the fluid of the eye known as aqueous humor. Deficiency of vitamin C in the extreme form can cause a disease called Scurvy.  Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits and vegetables.   

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient, which is highly concentrated in the outermost layer of the retina. Vitamin E helps control free radicals to protect the retina and vascular system.  Vitamin E is enriched in vegetables, nuts and seeds. 

Zinc is a less well known antioxidant coenzyme which means that it helps proteins to clean free radicals.  It also plays an important role in the health of cell membranes.  Zinc is found in red meats.   

Omega-3 fatty acids are long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are highly concentrated in the retina.  The omega-3’s act as building blocks to maintain cell protection systems.  They are found in oily fish.  Studies have shown a decreased risk of Macular Degeneration in individuals who eat oily fish more often.     

In addition, there is evidence that supplementation with vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid reduced the risk of AMD in women over 40 at risk for heart disease. It is important when starting any new supplements to discuss the risks and benefits with your physician.