Vision is one of your most important senses. Medical nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer reveals the supplements to keep eyes healthy
Vision is one of your most important senses and, while diet should always come first, a number of supplements can help to preserve your sight.
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless, progressive disorder that is a leading cause of visual loss in later life. AMD is associated with reduced levels of carotenoid pigments in the macula – a part of the retina responsible for fine vision. These yellow pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, filter out harmful blue light and help to neutralise the damaging chemicals produced during light detection.
Research published in Optometry – Journal of the American Optometric Association shows that taking lutein supplements (10mg daily) can improve macular function and supplements that include lutein, zeaxanthin, antioxidants (zinc, vitamins C, E) and omega-3 fish oils are prescribed by ophthalmologists to help prevent or treat AMD.
Cataracts are an opacity in the normally crystal-clear lens of the eye which causes blurring, changes in colour perception and seeing haloes around light. Most cataracts are due to degenerative changes with increasing age and are worsened by exposure to ultraviolet light.
People with the highest dietary intakes of antioxidants (especially vitamins C, E, lutein and zeaxanthin) are less likely to develop cataracts than those with low intakes. Vitamin B2 helps to maintain eye levels of an important eye antioxidant, glutathione, which may inhibit cataract formation.
Dry eyes are relatively common, especially if you forget to blink when concentrating on your work or computer screen. Some people suffer with dry eyes all the time however, due to reduced tear production with increasing age. The standard treatment for dry eyes involves lubricating drops known as artificial tears. These can be successful but may need to be used frequently to prevent burning, itching, grittiness and painful ulceration.
The combination of fatty acids and antioxidants in sea buckthorn oil helps to improve the lubricating qualities of tears and reduce their evaporation. Research shows that taking sea buckthorn oil daily, for three months, can produce significant relief of eye redness and burning compared with placebo. Increasing your intake of oily fish, or taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement, may also help.
Tips for healthy eyes
- Have regular eyes tests to detect problems earlier rather than later. And always report any changes in your vision, headache, and any pain in or around your eyes.
- Aim for at least five-a-day fruit and veg, especially lutein-rich kale, spinach, broccoli, and orange-yellow sweetcorn, peppers, apricots and mangoes.
- Wear sunglasses or tinted lenses that carry the UV400 mark to protect your eyes from the sun.
- If you smoke, do your utmost to stop; smokers are three times more likely to develop cataracts and four times more likely to experience macular degeneration than non-smokers.
- If you use a computer, take frequent breaks to reduce the chance of eye strain and tiredness. It’s also a good idea to look away from the screen during ‘thinking time’ and focus on objects at varying distances away.
- Wear protective sports goggles to shield your eyes when playing racquet games such as squash – prescription-versions are available.
- Always wear safety goggles for home DIY activities to prevent foreign bodies from flying into your eyes.
About Dr Sarah Brewer
Dr Sarah Brewer is a medical nutritionist and an expert in food, herbs and supplements. She qualified from Cambridge University with degrees in natural sciences, medicine and surgery. After working in general practice, she gained a master’s degree in nutritional medicine. Sarah is a licensed medical doctor, a registered nutritionist and a registered nutritional therapist.
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