10 critical eye vitamins for health
When it comes to healthcare, you’re unlikely to think of eye care immediately. But as we age, our eyes become more vulnerable to eye conditions. Two of the most common eye conditions in the US are AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) and cataracts.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
As the name suggests, AMD is most likely to develop in older people.
It affects the macular part of the eye, which is located at the center of your eye, and controls how sharp your eyesight is and is the part of your eye that you use for reading or driving.
Cataracts are another common eye disease that is also age-related. The condition leads to blurred vision and loss of color.
A cataract occurs when the protein in the lens of your eye clumps together. As a result, your lens becomes cloudy.
Fortunately, some vitamins help maintain healthy eyesight, and we’re going to explore 10 of the best that you can start taking today.
But first, what does the science say?
There have been a couple of significant studies on these eye diseases, best known as AREDS and AREDS2 (Age-Related Eye Disease). These studies evaluate the outcome certain supplements have on both AMD and cataracts on participants aged 55-80 years.
The study found that taking a combination of AREDS or AREDS2 supplements reduces the risk of progression from intermediate to advanced AMD by about 25%t. The AREDS formula also reduced the risk of central vision loss by 19%.
Furthermore, the study followed the participants for five years, ten years after the initial research. They found that the participants still taking the AREDS formula were 25% less likely to develop advanced AMD than those taking the placebo.
As well as having a positive effect on AMD, recent analysis of the AREDS study has found that “consistent use of a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement could delay the progression of lens opacities”.
Following the AREDS and AREDS2 studies, the formulation is recognized for having eye health benefits.
So, what is the final AREDS2 formula?
The AREDS2 formulation differs from AREDS by merely replacing the beta-carotene with Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Beta carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables. It also functions as an antioxidant which is why it was included in the original formula. Beta-carotene is the precursor to vitamin A, another important vitamin for your eyesight.
The change in formula was because a study showed that high levels of beta-carotene was considered a health hazard for smokers. The AREDS2 formulation provides the same benefit for both non-smokers and smokers.
The AREDS2 formulation consists of:
- 500 mg vitamin C
- 400 IU vitamin E
- 10 mg lutein
- 2 mg zeaxanthin
- 80 mg zinc
- 2 mg copper
So without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 supplements that help sustain good eye health! These include the antioxidants found in the AREDS2 formulation.
1. Vitamin A
There’s a reason when we grew up we were told that carrots help us see in the dark. Vitamin A is fundamental for ensuring we have good vision. A deficiency can lead to night blindness.
Vitamin A plays an essential role in the human retinal pigment epithelial cells. Or in other words, it plays a vital role in how eyesight functions.
Someone deficient in vitamin A may find their eyes become very dry. Dry eyes can eventually lead to the eye’s clouding and, as a result, loss of sight.
So, how much Vitamin A should you be getting?
The daily recommended dose of Vitamin A is 700mcg for adult women and 900mcg for adult men.
Preformed vitamin A is available naturally within lots of animal-based foods. The precursor, beta-carotene is found in various colorful fruits and veggies. Our bodies can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, but if you want to ensure you’re getting the recommended amount, you can support your diet with a Vitamin A supplement.
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an essential micronutrient and has powerful antioxidant properties. According to the AREDS and AREDS2 studies, nutrients with antioxidant functions can help prevent eye conditions.
Vitamin E is also an element of the AREDS and AREDS2 formulation that slowed the progression of AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration).
What’s the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E?
The recommended daily amount for adults is 15mg. As well as a supplement option, you can find Vitamin E in foods including:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Vegetable oils
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another potent antioxidant that makes up the AREDS and AREDS2 formulation.
Vitamin C is a vital component that helps keep eyes healthy and helps prevent eye-related diseases.
One study has shown that vitamin C can reduce the progression of onset cataracts by a third.
Vitamin C also supports the health of blood vessels in the eye.
As the body cannot create Vitamin C on its own, you must adapt your diet or supplement it to meet your daily recommended dose.
You’ll find vitamin C in the following foods:
- Sweet and white potatoes
- Green and red peppers
- Oranges and orange juice
- Leafy greens
- Tomatoes and tomato juice
How much vitamin C should I be getting?
The recommended daily dose is 75mg for adult women and 90mg for adult men. Be mindful when following recommendations for daily dosage as there’s reasonable evidence that the RDA for Vitamin C might be too low.
Riboflavin (B2) is another B vitamin responsible for a lot going on in the body! It helps boost energy and ensure the immune system is properly functioning, but it also has a positive impact on eye health.
Some reports suggest Riboflavin helps prevent the development of cataracts.
A deficiency in B2 is uncommon, but as a result, can cause blurred vision.
As the body only stores a small amount of B2, you need to ensure you’re consuming enough to prevent deficiency.
How much Riboflavin do I need each day?
The recommended daily intake is 1.2-1.3mg in adult women and 1.4-1.8mg in adult males.
Zinc is a mineral that has a crucial part to play in making sure that enough vitamin A from the liver gets to the retina and is necessary for the production of melanin. Melanin is a protective pigment in the eyes.
Zinc is found in ocular tissue, particularly the retina, which is why zinc supplementation may aid retinal health.
The elderly are also more susceptible to having a zinc deficiency and therefore are at an increased risk of vision from AMD.
One thing to be aware of is that a higher intake of zinc can lead to a deficiency in other areas, which is where copper comes in. We’ll explore this further down below!
How much Zinc should I be getting each day?
The recommended daily intake of Zinc is 8mg in non-pregnant adult women and 11mg in adult men and pregnant women.
Copper is a mineral that is part of the AREDS2 formulation and is an excellent antioxidant. The addition of copper in the AREDS2 study is because the higher levels of zinc needed can interfere with copper absorption.
The results of long term deficiency in copper can lead to vision loss, so if taking a zinc supplement, you must make sure you’re getting your recommended daily intake of copper. The optimal ratio to look for in supplements between zinc and copper is 10:1.
To get each supplement’s full benefit, ensure you take each one at least a couple of hours apart.
So, how much copper do I need each day?
The daily recommendation of copper for both adult men and women is 900mcg.
Niacin (B3) is another member of the vitamin B complex and has antioxidant properties.
Studies have found that there is a correlation between a low nutrient intake of Niacin and developing glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of loss of eyesight. It’s vital to prevent glaucoma because the damage caused is irreversible.
If you are looking to support your B3 intake with a supplement, do so with caution. Studies have found when consumed in high amounts; it can harm eye health.
Instead, you may want to incorporate more B3 rich foods into your diet.
Foods that are rich in B3 include:
- Brown rice
How much Niacin do I need each day?
The recommended daily intake of Niacin is 14mg in non-pregnant adult women and 16mg in adult men.
8 & 9. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are both part of the carotenoids group. Carotenoids plant pigments that make up the bright colours in many fruits and vegetables. The pigment plays an important role in plant health and they also act as antioxidants in the human body.
Both carotenoids were the latest additions that made up the AREDS2 formulation.
As well as possible prevention of cataracts and a slow down of AMD found in the AREDS2 studies, they both help to filter harmful blue light and maintain healthy eye cells.
As the body doesn’t naturally produce either Lutein or Zeaxanthin, you must add them through diet and supplements.
What’s the recommended daily intake of them both?
There isn’t a recommended daily intake of either Lutein or Zeaxanthin. However, there is strong evidence that it’s safe to take up to 20mg of Lutein a day.
For Zeaxanthin, taking 2mg a day can have health benefits.
Astaxanthin is another member of the carotenoid family. While the carotenoid family all have antioxidant properties, research shows that Astaxanthin is much more superior.
A study has shown that Astaxanthin has a positive effect on relieving eye strain. The dose taken in the study was 2mg a day, and the benefits started showing within four weeks.
Astaxanthin is mainly found in seafood, so if you’re not a fish fan, you’re going to want to take a supplement!
How much Astaxanthin do I need to take each day?
There isn’t a recommended daily intake of Astaxanthin, but research suggests a dose of 4-8mg by mouth 2-3 times a day. Six ounces of wild-caught salmon has just over 3.5mg of Astaxanthin for all the fish lovers out there.
It’s also worth noting that if taking Astaxanthin in a supplement form, the body retains it much better if taken with food.
But what about Omega 3-fatty acids?
You may have seen omega 3-fatty acids regularly pop up as a recommended supplement to take on articles that discuss eye health. Particularly when it comes to what supplements you can take to help prevent or cure dry eyes.
The Dry Eye Assessment and Management Study (DREAM) was a major study that examined the validity of the association between omega three and a dry eye cure. The study found that taking omega three supplements are no better than taking a placebo for dry eyes.
So with that information, we can’t recommend that taking an omega-three supplement is beneficial in maintaining good eye health.
Do I need to take supplements?
The body doesn’t naturally create all of the vitamins above, so you must get the recommended daily amounts through both diet and supplements.
In some cases, such as with Astaxanthin, they are primarily found in seafood, which not all diets will support. It's also challenging to achieve high levels of vitamins and minerals from food alone. Therefore, it’s recommended to help a healthy diet with a supplement.
It’s important to remember vitamins through food, and additional supplements are a benefit, not just your eye health, but overall health.
The vitamins we’ve mentioned are available over the counter, but make sure to contact a medical healthcare professional if you have any healthcare issues or questions.
What else can I do to maintain good eye health?
It’s important to remember that the eyes are naturally going to be affected as we get older.
Aside from supplements, some other things you can do to care for your eyes are:
- Don’t smoke - this study shows this can leads to the development of cataracts
- Wear blue glasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet light
- Have a regular eye exam when over the age of 60
- Diet - eating a balanced diet helps maintain good eye health as well as overall health
- Exercise - this increases blood circulation which improves oxygen levels to the eyes
- If an avid computer user, take frequent breaks and keep the top of the screen just below eye level
Some specific vitamins and minerals contribute to good eye health. While these aren’t enough to cure poor vision, the findings from the two major studies are significant.
Make sure to eat a balanced diet and support this with a supplement when necessary to ensure your reaching your recommended daily intake!