Fostering and maintaining eye health is essential for proper functioning in modern-day society. The life of people from developed countries is characterized by constant visual stimuli coming from phones, laptop screens, televisions and a myriad of other visual modalities. Due to this, the strain on our eyes is becoming ever more severe and the risk of developing sight-related illnesses, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and neurodegenerative eye diseases, is increasing to an exponential degree. However, the discussion surrounding eye health remains largely in the background with many individuals still unaware of ways to optimize eye health and vision.
How to Promote Eye Health: The Role of Supplementation
There are different ways to care for the eyes and vision, the primary way is using the appropriate diet that contains specific elements that contribute to eye care. The eyes are not a singular structure, they are composed of various subcomponents that make up the organ to produce proper vision. The cornea, sclera, iris and extraocular muscles all require different nutrients that prevent ocular degeneration and promote proper functioning. For example, foods high in antioxidants, which are molecules that reduce harmful substances within our bodies, are implicated in reducing the risk of AMD and vision loss. However, even a healthy diet comprised of the necessary ingredients may not be enough for the body to absorb the proper nutrients to care for the eyes. Therefore, it is important to introduce other venues in our lives that specifically target eye health, such as supplementation. The following compounds consist of various vitamins and nutrients that are widely prevalent in supplementation formulas. They have been scientifically proven to promote various eye health domains including light sensitivity, antioxidation and neurodegeneration.
Vitamins are organic substances that are found in foods or produced in our bodies, but only in minute quantities. They are essential micronutrients that most living organisms require in order to maintain a healthy metabolism and play a role in managing biological functions such as cell differentiation and tissue growth. A deficiency of vitamins may result in many health-related problems including illnesses that deteriorate eye health such as AMD and cataracts. The primary vitamins evidenced to directly promote eye health include:
- Vitamin A: One of the leading causes of blindness is due to vitamin A deficiency because of its role in maintaining the eyes’ light receptor cells, otherwise known as photoreceptors. Vitamin A is a component of a protein called rhodopsin, which is a molecule that facilitates vision in low-light conditions. It also supports the functioning of the cornea which is the protective outer layer of the eye where any vitamin A deficiency can lead to dry eye syndrome.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Riboflavin functions to repair and renew various tissues in the body and is used to treat keratoconus, which is a degenerative eye disease that attacks the cornea. it is also an antioxidative compound that has the potential to reduce oxidative stress in the body and eyes. Due to this function, it can also be used to prevent the formation of cataracts due to oxidative stress which is a process that releases free radicals which are harmful chemicals that are released within the body
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is also part of the antioxidant family and is a potent protector of cells found in the eyes. Many eye conditions stem from oxidative stress and the subsequent release of free radicals in the area surrounding the eyes. Due to the complex nature of the eyes which have many components with liquid bodies, they are extremely sensitive to free radicals and can lead to illnesses such as AMD and cataracts. Moreover, the antioxidant quality of vitamin E protects fatty acids found in the eyes from oxidation. The retina, which is the layer of photoreceptors, contains high concentrations of fatty acids and depends on vitamin E for preventing degeneration.
Zinc is found in high concentrations in the eyes. It is an enzyme that functions as an antioxidant as well. Like Vitamin A, the adequate amount of zinc helps promote light receptors in the retina, but is primarily focused on forming visual pigments as opposed to maintaining photoreceptors.
Zinc has also been implicated in treating macular degeneration (AMD) in older adults where treatment using zinc slowed the progression of the disease and helped keep visual sharpness intact.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients that are found in high concentrations in the macula, situated in the center of the retina where there is the highest concentration of photoreceptors.
They play an important role in protecting the eyes by protecting the photoreceptors from blue light which can be harmful to the eyes. It is also important to note that blue light is the primary source of light that is emitted by electronic devices such as computers and phones. It is this constant exposure to blue light which is the root of many eye-related health issues in modern society which is saturated by electronic screen usage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for maintaining eye health and also play an essential role in brain and eye development during both pregnancy and infancy. They are a type of polyunsaturated fat that can be found within the cell membranes of the retina that maintain eye function and vision maintenance.
Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can lead to impaired vision and dry eye syndrome by increasing the relevant fluids that manage different components of the eye such as the retina. Moreover, proper supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids can also help prevent other eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy which is a diabetic condition that affects light perception leading to complete or partial blindness.
The Bottom Line
The eyes are dynamic organs that are composed of various components responsible for maintaining vision. In order to protect the eyes from developing illnesses such as AMD, cataracts or diabetic retinopathy, it is important to make sure that they receive the necessary nutrients. Many of these nutrients can be found through a diet, but many a time there is still a substantial amount of nutrients that can be missing from a diet leading to deteriorating eye health. Hence, acquiring them through supplementation is a useful method for promoting our sight and vision
Keep in mind, an important factor that is sometimes neglected is the notion that a healthy body is also a strong contributor to keeping our eyes healthy. The key is to find the balance between finding the specific nutrients that target the eyes without neglecting overall health which will likely aid the eyes and vision.