Lichfield Street Opticians in Wolverhampton

Caring for Wolverhampton’s eyes since 1863

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Eye Health: Nutrition

Eating Healthy to Protect Your Vision

To maintain the quality of your vision - especially as you get older - it is important to take care of your eyes. One of the main preventative measures you can take is by maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet. Good nutrition helps our body to grow, repair wear and tear, protect against infection and to function properly.

By eating foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and dairy whilst reducing your intake of tea, coffee and refined sugars, you are not only giving your eyes the best nutritional benefits you are improving your overall general health as well. Certain vitamins and minerals are of particular importance for your eyes and may be found in greater amounts in certain foods. Many of these vital ingredients are essential for eye health though your body cannot produce them itself - your eyes rely on your diet for these vitamins.

If you feel that you are not gaining enough of any of these vital nutrients, there are many dietary supplements available to that may help to protect the eyes and slow the progression of certain vision disorders, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. As these vitamins are not always found in common foods, supplements can help you to ensure that your eyes gain all of the nutrition required for healthy vision.

Vitamins and the Eye

Thanks to various studies, we now know that antioxidant vitamins and minerals found in certain foods are linked to good eye health. They help to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye and may play a role in preventing various eye conditions.


Nutrient

Why They Are Important

Common sources

Vitamin A

Helps with many types of eye problem including poor vision in dim light or at night.

fish liver oil, liver, carrots, egg, cheese, butter, margarine, milk, green vegetables, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin B complex

(such as folates) required for overall eye health, by the eyes to avoid bloodshot, burning or gritty feeling eyes, cataracts and sensitivity to bright lights.

brewer's yeast, yeast extract, wheatgerm, wholegrain cereals

Vitamin C

helpful in the prevention of cataracts and glaucoma. High concentrations of vitamin C are found in healthy eyes.

citrus fruits, other fruits including tomatoes, green vegetables, potatoes.

Vitamin E

Helps to prevent cataracts. It helps to keep the blood vessels and retina healthy.

wheatgerm, vegetable oils, wholegrain bread and cereals, green vegetables.

Selenium

helps to prevent cataracts and to slow the ageing of the eye by neutralising free radicals that may harm the lens and the macula.

fish and shellfish, sesame and sunflower seeds, wholegrain cereals.

Zinc

Required in a high concentration for the retina to function properly. Also required to release vitamin A from the liver for use by the eyes.

shelfish, liver, red meats, eggs, sardines, nuts and  seeds.

Chronium

 Helps to regulate the amount of pressure on the eye.

 

Carotenoids and Eye Health

Recent studies have shown that two types of powerful antioxidants, known as 'carotenoids' may also help with eye health. Some studies have found that people who have a good diet rich in carotenoids, have a lower risk of developing Macular Degeneration. Some of the biggest risks to eye health involve the macula, which depends on carotenoid antioxidants such as Lutein (pronounced Loo-teen) and Zeaxanthin (pronounced Zee-ah-za-thin)

CAROTENOID-RICH VEGETABLES

Vegetables (100g)

Lutein / Zeaxanthin (micrograms)

Kale

21,900

Spring greens

16,300

Raw spinach

10,200

Broccoli

1,900

Leaf lettuce

1,800

Green peas

1,700

Brussels sprouts

1,300

Sweetcorn

780

Green beans

740

Raw carrot

260

Tomatoes

100

Lutein and Zeaxanthin can be found in almost all fruits and vegetables but are in particularly higher concentrations in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Increasing your intake of antioxidants from sources such as these could slow the progression of MD. While there appears to be a link between carotenoid intake and MD, more research is needed. In the meantime, a diet including at least 2-4 servings per week of dark green leafy vegetables high in lutein and zeaxanthin may help to lower your risk of developing MD.

The recommended daily intake of all fruits and vegetables is five servings a day. A diet high in carotenoids may also protect against cataracts, heart disease and cancer.

You may also notice that these foods are also rich sources for vitamins A, E and C.

Vitamin / Dietary Supplements

As previously mentioned, many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for good eye health cannot be naturally produced by your body and must therefore be taken in as a part of your diet. But not everyone will readily have access to some of the foods listed above - sometimes they are priced out of one’s range, sometimes they may not be available in all areas of the country. One possible way to overcome this is through the use of dietary supplements.

A large research trial, called the 'Age-Related Eye Disease Study' (AREDS), showed that high quantities of the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene and the minerals zinc (as zinc oxide), and copper (as cupric oxide), can help to slow down the progression of AMD. It would normally be very hard to obtain the large quantity of vitamins used in the trial from your diet. Therefore some people who already have AMD may consider supplementation with vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Such high dosages of vitamins and minerals might have possible side effects on the body. For this reason it is very important to consult your doctor first before taking a supplement.

Following the AREDS research trial there have been over 150 smaller scale studies looking at how vitamins and minerals, both from food and in a vitamin supplement, can help eye health in general, and in particular AMD and cataracts. A number of these studies have looked specifically at the carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin (see above) which have been particularly associated with healthy eyes.

As a result of these studies there are now a number of different supplements for eye health on the market.

However, research has shown that many people in the UK do not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet. Some people might consider taking a supplement for their general and eye health when:

  •     their diet does not include enough fresh fruit and vegetables
  •     diet does not include enough vitamins and minerals
  •     vitamins and minerals from food are not adequately absorbed by the body
  •     it is hard to obtain or prepare fresh fruit and vegetables
  •     they have been told to take a supplement by their doctor or nutritionist.

However, experts agree that taking supplements is not a substitute for a healthy diet.

Conclusion

A consensus has been reached on the importance of a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach.

Key points to remember:

  •     eat a good, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
  •     discuss changing your diet or taking vitamin supplements with your GP
  •     discuss your diet or taking a vitamin supplement with your GP if you believe that your diet may be inadequate
  •     the biggest avoidable risk is smoking
  •     protect your eyes from sunlight. Use good quality sunglasses that offer complete 100% UV400 protection, such as Polaroid polarised sunglasses.
  •     get your eyes tested at least every two years and more frequently if necessary.