Our eyes can tell us more about the world around us than any of the other sense organs. They’re like a camera, but far more complex and sensitive. And they are more than just our windows to the world. Our eyes also reveal our inner feelings and even our state of health.
Unfortunately, many of us are not born with perfect eyes nor do we enjoy a clear vision. Some are already wearing corrective lenses — either in the form of eyeglasses or contact lenses — to improve their vision.
Because of the eye’s delicate structure, eyes are subject to a variety of injuries, diseases, and disorders. In this article, we will focus on how a healthy diet and supplements can take care of our eyes.
The 20/20 Vision
But before we go to that, let me explain first that a 20/20 vision doesn’t mean a perfect vision. It is a term that refers to the normal visual acuity.
Visual acuity means the clarity of your vision measured at a distance. 20/20 means that what you see clearly at a distance of 20 feet is the same as a person with a normal vision. So if an optometrist tells you that your visual acuity is 20/50, it means that you need to stay close at 20 feet to see things that a normal person could see at 50 feet.
And visual acuity is just a part of the eye skills to be considered in eye health. Peripheral vision, color vision, focusing skills, eye coordination, etc. are also to be considered.
But because we see with our eyes, seeing clearly defines mostly our eyes’ state of health. That’s the reason why the most discussed eye-related disease or disorders are cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that develops slowly and leads to a decrease in vision. The decrease in vision affects your visual acuity, you can’t see clearly. It can eventually lead to blindness, if left untreated.
Glaucoma is a group of related eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve. Optic nerves carry information from the eye to the brain. Once damaged, what we see may not be interpreted completely by the brain.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Simply called macular degeneration or AMD, it is described as the deterioration of the macula in our eyes. The macula is located in the retina of the eye and it controls visual acuity. It is said that AMD is the leading cause of loss of vision among Americans.
The Eye Vitamins
Numerous studies show the relationships of different nutrients and eye diseases like cataract and AMD. One of them reported that antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of having age-related macular degeneration (AMD). So the relationship between diet, supplements, and eye health is not something new. Below are some of the nutrients we should be taking in to help our eyes.
• Vitamin A
It is well known that vitamin A deficiency can cause xeropthalmia or night blindness. Although the pathogenesis of the disease is still unknown, it is still a mystery why some vulnerable communities develop xerophtalmia while others don’t.
• Vitamin C
Another study reports that the amount of vitamin C in the aqueous humor in our eyes decreases with age. This decrease could play a role in the susceptibility of the elderly to age-related cataracts.
• Vitamin E
A study reported that vitamin E may help reduce the progression of macular degeneration among people who show early signs of the eye disease.
Zinc helps your body absorb vitamin A. It also acts as antioxidant by aiding numerous enzymes in your body fight against free radicals. Zinc has been shown to protect against macular degeneration and night blindness.
• Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Studies about lutein and zeaxanthin, in relation with age-related macular degeneration, is still under investigation. Although many proposed that these carotenoids are important just like their relatives vitamin A and betacarotene. Their importance to eye tissues is suggested by the fact that they are the only carotenoids in the eye, unlike all other body tissues. This may be due to their abilities to absorb blue light, to function as antioxidants, or both. Lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of developing cataract and macular degeneration. Currently, however, the evidence is far from conclusive. There are many pieces of evidence still to be evaluated and inconsistencies across studies.
• Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 supplemental formulas appear to stimulate vision development in infants.
Several studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. These essential fatty acids also help drain intraocular fluid from the eye, thus decreasing the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma.
Where Do We Get Those Nutrients?
Fruits and vegetables are your best bet to get the nutrients that you need. Bright colored vegetables like carrots and squash are rich in vitamin A. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Nuts, seeds and its oils are good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
As we get older, it is inevitable that our vision may also be affected. But we can stop or delay its progression with a proper diet and supplementation. We have to love our eyes and take of it because loss of vision can be debilitating.