Nutrition and Vision
Similar to the rest of the body exercise and balanced nutrition play an essential role in maintaining healthy eyes. Routine eye examinations by your eyecare practitioner are an important part of a comprehensive health program. Similar to the rest of the body exercise and balanced nutrition play an essential role in maintaining healthy eyes. Proper nutrition can help prevent or delay several eye conditions and it is a principal factor contributing to eye development and good vision.
For the eyes to function properly the circulatory system must constantly supply the eyes with essential vitamins minerals and proteins. The following is a list of some essential nutrients their effects on the eye and the foods that contain the necessary nutrients.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for night vision. In the retina beneath the light sensitive rods and cones lies a coloured compound called rhodopsin of which vitamin A is an important component. Each time light hits the rhodopsin a reaction takes place that sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. Vitamin A is lost during each reaction and the body must replenish it so that the brain receives continuous messages. Night blindness can occur if the body has not stored enough vitamin A.
In addition to the prevention of night blindness vitamin A can inhibit the formation of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration(AMD).
Vitamin A is obtainable from either animal products or plants such as leafy dark green or orange vegetables. Examples of these are spinach and carrots. Such vegetables have a high level of beta-carotene that the body converts into vitamin A. It is important to avoid ingesting excessive amounts of vitamin A directly as this can be toxic. Instead look for foods high in beta-carotene as this is a much safer indirect source of vitamin A. If you smoke or drink on a regular basis you should consult your eyecare provider regarding your intake of vitamin A and beta-carotene as you may be at risk of increased ocular and health complications.
Antioxidants ‘absorb’ free radicals before they harm the body. Free radicals are molecules that form when the body processes oxygen and food. If uncontrolled these molecules can cause cellular damage.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant vitamin. Recent studies suggest that vitamin C or ascorbic acid can reduce the risk of cataracts glaucoma and AMD. Vitamin C is in all cells of the body but has an extremely high concentration in the lens of the eye. The body also requires Vitamin C at the point where the muscles that are responsible for eye movement join with the sclera or the white part of the eye. Citrus fruits berries potatoes and green leafy vegetables are sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin E can be stored in the body’s fat tissues and can help prevent cataracts and AMD. Important sources of vitamin E include nuts seeds grains green leafy vegetables and vegetable oil.
Beta-carotene- the two most effective carotenoid antioxidants in the prevention of AMD are lutein and zeaxanthin. As the body cannot produce either substance they must be obtained through diet. They exist primarily in leafy green vegetables such as spinach collard greens kale and fresh parsley or in such yellow fruits and vegetables as corn and squash. Click here to read more about how lutein and zeaxanthin help to prevent AMD.
Zinc helps increase the absorption of vitamin A and it is abundant in meats seafood and nuts.
Selenium Manganese and Copper can stimulate the production of antioxidants to control free radicals. These minerals are found in trace amounts in meats seafood and vegetables.
Riboflavin Glutathione and Niacinamide – these minerals help reverse free-radical damage to cells and are found in trace amounts in many common foods such as milk and meat products.
Essential Fatty Acids
Although it may be difficult to believe that fat is an essential component of a nutritious diet it is the truth. Researchers believe that fatty acids are necessary for proper visual development and that fatty acid deficiencies in adults can result in impaired vision or damage to the retina or macula. Essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation that may be responsible for dry eye. Two types of essential fatty acids are omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids can help restore the proper tear film and are obtainable from fish oil and flaxseed oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oil beef and dairy products.
If your dietary intake is not giving you the essential vitamins and minerals you need to maintain healthy eyes consult your eyecare practitioner who can recommend a dietary supplement.