4 essential vitamins for healthy eyes

Certain vitamins are essential for maintaining good eye health. Many are powerful antioxidants that protect the eyes and other parts of the body from oxidative damage and inflammation.

Deficiencies in particular vitamins can increase the risk of certain eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Research suggests that certain vitamin and mineral supplements may help protect or slow the development of these conditions.

In this article, we describe four vitamins essential for good eye health. We also discuss three additional nutrients that are beneficial for the eyes. Finally, we list the different food sources of these vitamins and nutrients.

People who wish to protect the health of their eyes should try to include sufficient amounts of the following vitamins in their diet.

1. Vitamin A and beta-carotene

Vitamin A is essential for a good view. It is a component of the rhodopsin protein, which allows the eye to see in low light conditions. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness.

Vitamin A also supports the function of the cornea, which is the protective outer layer of the eye. A person deficient in vitamin A may find that their eyes produce too little moisture to stay lubricated.

Beta-carotene is the main source of vitamin A in the human diet. Beta-carotene is a type of plant pigment called a carotenoid that exists in many colorful fruits and vegetables. When a person consumes carotenoids, their body converts the pigments into vitamin A.

2. Vitamin E

Alpha tocopherol is a form of vitamin E that has particularly powerful antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which damage tissue throughout the body. Sometimes free radicals can damage proteins in the eye. This damage can cause cloudy areas called cataracts to develop on the lens of the eye.

A 2014 review looked at studies linking vitamin E to cataract prevention. Some research has found that lens clarity is better in people who take vitamin E supplements.

However, the authors note that a separate study found that vitamin E supplements had no effect on cataract progression. They conclude that more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of vitamin E supplements in preventing and slowing the development of cataracts.

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that helps protect against oxidative damage.

Oxidative damage is a key factor in two of the The most common age-related cataracts: cortical and nuclear cataracts. Cortical cataracts develop at the edges of the lens, while nuclear cataracts occur deep in its center or “nucleus”.

A 2016 longitudinal study looked at different factors that may help prevent the development of nuclear cataracts. The study involved more than 1,000 pairs of binoculars.

At the start of the study, the researchers measured the participants’ cataracts. They then tracked each participant’s intake of vitamin C and other nutrients over 10 years.

At the end of the study period, the researchers re-measured cataracts in 324 pairs of twins. Participants who reported consuming more vitamin C showed a 33% reduction in the risk of cataract progression. They also had clearer glasses overall.

4. B vitamins

A 2009 study suggests that daily supplementation with a combination of vitamins B-6, B-9 and B-12 may reduce the risk of AMD. AMD is a degenerative eye disease that affects vision.

However, this particular study only included women. More research is therefore needed to support the use of B vitamins in the prevention of AMD in women and men.

A older study examined the nutrient intake and eye health of 2,900 people aged 49 to 97. The results revealed that higher intakes of protein, vitamin A, and B vitamins riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin were associated with lower rates of nuclear cataracts.

A National study 2018 in South Korea have found a link between reduced intake of vitamin B-3, or niacin, and glaucoma. In people with glaucoma, a buildup of fluid in the eye puts pressure on the optic nerve. Over time, this can damage the nerve, leading to loss of vision.

Research suggests that the following nutrients are also beneficial for the eyes.

1. Lutein and zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in high amounts in green leafy vegetables. They are also present in the lens and the retina of the eye.

As antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin can help reduce oxidative damage in the retina. Some research suggests that taking approximately 6 milligrams (mg) per day lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of developing AMD.

2. Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that helps maintain the health of the retina, cell membranes, and the protein structure of the eye.

Zinc allows vitamin A to travel from the liver to the retina to produce melanin. Melanin is a pigment that protects the eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

According to the American Optometric Association, zinc supplementation can help people with AMD or at risk of developing the disease. Taking 40 to 80 mg of zinc per day, in addition to some antioxidants, may slow the progression of advanced AMD by 25%. It could also reduce visual acuity loss by 19%.

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

The retina of the eye contains a particularly high concentration omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3). These fatty acids help protect the retina from damage and degeneration.

Specifically, omega-3s reduce the buildup of fatty deposits in blood vessels, including those that supply the retina. Some scientists believe that fatty deposits in these blood vessels could contribute to AMD.

In addition, a small amount of research suggests that increasing omega-3 intake may reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome. A person with dry eye syndrome does not produce enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated. However, research in this area is limited and more studies are needed to support this claim.

A healthy, balanced diet containing a range of the following foods should provide enough vitamins and nutrients to support good eye health. To research suggests that these nutrients work together to protect the eyes, so eating a wide variety of healthy foods is the best approach.

People who are taking medication or who already have a health problem should consult their doctor before taking any dietary supplements. In some cases, certain supplements can be harmful to your health. For example, high doses of zinc can affect the way the body absorbs copper.

In addition, it appears that very high doses of beta-carotene can increase the risk lung cancer in people who smoke.

Below we list the food sources of the vitamins we mention in this article.

Vitamin A and beta-carotene:

Vitamin E:

Vitamin C:

Vitamin B-1 or thiamine:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • pork
  • fish
  • green peas
  • yogurt

Vitamin B-2 or riboflavin:

Vitamin B-3 or niacin:

Vitamin B-6 or pyridoxine:

  • Chickpeas
  • dark leafy green vegetables
  • Poultry
  • Liver of beef
  • salmon and tuna

Vitamin B-9 or folic acid:

  • dark leafy green vegetables
  • peanuts
  • Beans
  • Seafood
  • Sun-flower seeds
  • eggs

Vitamin B-12 or cobalamin:

People can only get vitamin B-12 from animal sources. Thus, people who do not consume animal products will need to take vitamin B-12 supplements or consume products that manufacturers have fortified with vitamin B-12.

Lutein and zeaxanthin:

Zinc:

  • seafood, such as oysters, crab and lobster
  • Turkey
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • nuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • whole grains
  • milk
  • fortified cereals

Vegetarians may need double their consumption of foods rich in zinc, because a vegetarian diet provides less zinc than an omnivorous diet.

omega-3 fatty acids:

Specific vitamins and nutrients are essential for maintaining good eye health. Some may even help prevent the development or progression of certain eye diseases.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will provide people with the necessary range of nutrients. The diet should include whole grains, legumes, and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Patricia J. Callender