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The Top Nutrients For Better Vision & Preventing Age-Related Eye Diseases

Nutrients for better vision

A common proverb says that you are what you eat. It means what you put into your body significantly influences your eye health, just as it does for other body parts.

Many people are unaware that maintaining a healthy diet may greatly benefit their eyes and lower their risk of typical age-related problems. To have better vision and prevent problems in the future, it is important to understand the impact of nutrition on the eyes, too. So, come along as we investigate how a change in diet might improve eyesight.

What Are the Most Common Eye Conditions?

A few age-related conditions can worsen anybody’s vision if not taken care of. For example, macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most prevalent causes of visual loss as we age. It gradually takes people out of sight by affecting the macula, the central region of the retina. A cataract is another condition in which the normally clear eye lens is gradually clouding. Depending on the position and size of the mass, the increasing cloudiness might lead to blurred vision.

Glaucoma is a well-known condition that can affect our eyes as we age. When intraocular pressure and fluid accumulate, it can harm the visual nerve. Damage to the optic nerve fibers causes blind spots. Blindness will result from an injury to the whole nerve.

These are the most prevalent eye-related problems. If you want to learn more about the many other eye-related conditions that affect people, we recommend reading our in-depth article here.

Top Science-Based Nutrients For Better Vision

Researchers have recently been able to link the levels of specific vitamins to an increased or decreased risk of age-related eye disorders. Regarding diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, the scientific community agrees that some nutrients can help with better vision.

So here is the list of the finest nutrients to consume, according to scientific study, in order to maintain healthy and bright eyes as you age.

1. Ginkgo biloba

For eye supplements, ginkgo biloba is among the best. It is rich in flavonoids, a plant-based polyphenol chemical with antioxidants. Some of the recognized benefits of ginko include protecting eye neurons from injury, increasing blood flow, stabilizing mitochondria, and acting as an antioxidant, along with many other neuroprotective effects (2)

Ginkgo Biloba has been proven effective in human glaucoma studies by slowing the disease’s course and making them more adept at visual field tests. A 2003 study involving 27 patients with bilateral normal tension glaucoma and progressive visual field defects found that using ginkgo biloba supplements for four weeks improved their visual field. Another 2018 study proved that Ginkgo biloba supplementation improves preexisting visual field loss in a subset of glaucoma patients. In another study, glaucoma patients were given 40 mg of ginkgo as a supplement along with the medications, which was found to slow the progression of glaucoma in the patients.

The extract has also been found to be effective in cases of AMD. A study done in 2023 suggests that the dosage of 50 mg alleviates symptoms or reduces the disease’s progression. A 2009 study also postulated that the extract could be useful for glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and AMD patients because of its blood circulation-enhancing properties.

2. Nicotinamide

Nicotinamide (niacinamide), which is a derivative of niacin (vitamin B3). Researchers have shown that glaucoma (both normal tension and open-angle glaucoma) is more common in people with low niacin consumption. (1)(2)

However, recent studies have also shown promising results from using nicotinamide for better vision as we age. In 2017, research was found to have a neuroprotective effect on glaucoma patients. Another 2020 12-week human study found that nicotinamide significantly improved visual field metrics and inner retinal function in patients with mild-to-moderate glaucoma. After receiving either a placebo or nicotinamide, the two groups switched therapies at the 12-week mark, using the same dosage.

A 2022 study found visual function improvement with using nicotinamide compared to placebo within 2 months of using pyruvate.

3. Carotenoids

Another well-studied nutrient for age-related eye diseases is carotenoids. It is found in all colorful vegetables. The most commonly studied carotenoids for eye health and vision are lutein and zeaxanthin. These all-natural substances shield the eyes from harmful light, like sunglasses worn within the eye. Research has demonstrated that the risk of developing cataracts is lower in diets rich in these carotenoids.
A 2017 research proves that taking lutein and zeaxanthin at approximately 6 milligrams (mg) daily may reduce the risk of developing AMD. The same study also proved that a daily dose of 0.5–1 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of glaucoma.

Not only this, but another research study has shown that these nutrients can positively affect retinal health. This year-long study with 126 males indicated that supplementation with lutein, zeaxanthin (10mg each), or both greatly increased (macula pigment optical density) by as much as 15%.

4. Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in the eye’s retina. Preventing retinal degeneration and damage is one of the many functions of these fatty acids. It has been well documented that omega-3 supplementation can delay age-related retinal degeneration, according to small animal studies. In addition to protecting the eye from oxidative damage associated with cataract development and age-related macular degeneration, omega-3 use for 3 months also promoted fluid outflow, which helps alleviate symptoms of glaucoma.

Also, it’s a common practice that when treating dry eye conditions, many specialists suggest omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Glutathione

An essential antioxidant, glutathione, may aid in eye protection, especially in cases of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. It helps the eye’s drainage system work better, which is good news for those with glaucoma, and it shields the eyes from the oxidative damage that causes cataracts and aging-related macular degeneration. Some other studies also mention its role in protecting the lens from oxidative damage and cataract formation, promoting retinal health, decreasing inflammation in the eye, and perhaps delaying the course of age-related macular degeneration and other degenerative eye diseases. (1)(2)

6. Resveratrol

According to clinical trials, resveratrol has several ocular benefits, including protecting neurons from damage and slowing aging. It is also an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. A study on resveratrol uses for the eye found that it can lower signs of inflammation and cellular aging in people with glaucoma.

Another study found that resveratrol treatment significantly slowed down the process of cell death, helped maintain the normal function of cell energy centers (mitochondria), and improved cell survival.

7. Vitamins and Minerals For Vision

Fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins (C, different B vitamins, etc.) play complementary functions in maintaining healthy eyes.

Zinc functions as an antioxidant, aiding the defense against the numerous free radicals in the macula. It can also help avoid AMD worsening and preserve some of the eyes’ natural sharpness. The American Optometric Association says that combining specific antioxidants with 40–80 mg of zinc daily may slow the progression of advanced AMD by 25%. Additionally, visual acuity decline could be reduced by 19%.

Magnesium is another mineral that has been proven to be good for the eyes. Magnesium may be useful for glaucoma patients because of its neuroprotective effects and potential to increase ocular blood flow. According to a 2020 study, patients with glaucoma who consumed magnesium, homotaurine, carnosine, forskolin, folic acid, and vitamins B1, B2, and B6 showed notable improvements in light and contrast sensitivity and a substantial reduction in intraocular pressure (IOP).

For optimal eye health, vision, and function, it’s important to eat a varied diet that includes vitamins that are soluble in water and those that are soluble in fat. The B vitamins, vitamin C, and other water-soluble vitamins can aid in nerve function and eye health. Vitamins A, E, and K are fat-soluble and are important in healthy cell formation, eye development, and protection. So, add these vitamins to your diet as a supplement or by diet to get their benefits.

Here’s a table summarizing the beneficial nutrients for eye health, their effects, and the best dietary sources for each:

Nutrient Effects on Eye Health Best Sources
Ginkgo Biloba It enhances blood flow to the retina, offers neuroprotective effects, and has been shown to improve the visual field in glaucoma patients. Mostly available as a supplement.
Nicotinamide It has been shown to have neuroprotective effects and improve visual field metrics and inner retinal function in glaucoma patients. Meat, fish, mushrooms, nuts, and green peas.
Carotenoids (Lutein & Zeaxanthin) Associated with reducing the risk of AMD and potentially lowering the risk of developing glaucoma. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, corn, eggs, and orange peppers.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids It helps prevent retinal degeneration and damage and supports fluid outflow in glaucoma. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Glutathione Protects against oxidative damage related to cataracts and AMD and may improve the eye’s drainage system. Asparagus, avocado, spinach, and broccoli.
Resveratrol It offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, protects neurons, and may slow eye aging effects. Grapes, berries, peanuts, and dark chocolate.
Vitamins B1, B2, and B6 Supports nerve function and can alleviate Dry Eye Disease (DED) symptoms. Whole grains, pork, eggs, milk, and liver.
Vitamin C Prevents eye-related conditions through its antioxidant properties. Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Vitamin E Protects against macular degeneration and may help with healing after eye surgeries. Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin K Important for blood clotting and maintaining vascular health in the eyes. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Magnesium It has neuroprotective effects and may improve ocular blood flow, which helps manage glaucoma. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.
Zinc Acting as an antioxidant, it protects against free radical damage in the macula and helps manage AMD. Meat, shellfish, legumes, and seeds.

Key Findings from the AREDS and AREDS2 Studies on Age-Related Eye Diseases

The National Eye Institute has recently conducted two age-related eye disease studies (AREDS and AREDS2). They were conducted over 5 years, and different formulations of vitamins and supplements were given to participants. The results were proven to be very effective with AMD, with a 25% reduction in severe vision loss in the study population. Only patients with mild AMD showed any improvement in their condition. Those in the modest or advanced stages did not benefit from the supplements.

Notably, the research also discovered that zeaxanthin and lutein, two of the examined supplements, reduced the necessity for cataract surgery by 32% among participants whose initial dietary intake of these carotenoids was deficient.

The AREDS and AREDS2 studies examined the long-term effects of taking several high-energy antioxidants. As a whole, AREDS2’s suggestions for eyes were:

Vitamin C 500 mg
Vitamin E 400 IU
Lutein 10 mg
Zeaxanthin 2 mg
Zinc 80 mg
Copper 2 milligrams (to avoid zinc-induced copper deficit)

The data shows that taking these nutrients does not protect against getting AMD or cataracts, but it may slow the development of AMD. So, supplements are advised if you have intermediate AMD in one or both eyes. They may lower your risk of getting advanced AMD and losing vision.

Individuals who currently smoke or have a prior smoking history should seek out an eye health formulation that excludes beta carotene. It was found that beta-carotene increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer.

Food Pyramid For Eye Health

Research published in the Frontiers Journal in 2023 showed that besides surgical and medical management, lifestyle factors, including diet and physical activity, have a crucial role in the early detection and treatment of many eye illnesses.

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Among the many nutrients the pyramid suggests are a regular exercise routine, avoiding specific unhealthy foods, and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and grains with a low glycemic index and healthy fats.

Recently, more and more people are turning to dietary supplements for better vision. Proper knowledge about the best nutrients available can help you choose your needs. Finding a multivitamin or dietary supplement with every vitamin your eyes need is possible. Another option would be to consume superfoods rich in all these beneficial elements.

Including these nutrients in your diet can help prevent age-related eye issues and protect your eyesight for better vision at later ages. However, getting individualized advice from a doctor is best if you have any pre-existing health issues or special dietary needs.

As beneficial as it may be, maintaining vision with age can also be enjoyable. As you incorporate these foods into your daily routine, you will notice an improvement in the health of your eyes.

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