You’ve probably heard someone say, “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes.” You may have also seen advertisements for nutritional supplements for eye health.
You may have heard about recent research suggesting that certain nutrients can help delay or prevent eye problems and disease.
So what should you believe? What can you do to protect your eye health and eye sight using vision supplements? Here is information to help you decide.
Without high enough levels of vitamin A, the conjunctiva – which is normally clear – can develop a white spot called a Bitot’s spot. Vitamin A deficiency can impair night vision and lead to blindness, although that’s rare in the United States.
With the right vitamin supplements, most vitamin A deficiency cases are easy to treat, says West.
And, here’s where the benefits of carrots come in: they are packed with beta carotene, which the body absorbs and converts into vitamin A. Egg yolks, cheese, broccoli and liver are also good sources of vitamin A.
A diet rich in vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risk for cataract progression. Unfortunately, you can’t completely avoid cataracts, which naturally occur with age, but eating foods high in vitamin C may delay their onset and keep cataracts from worsening.
Bilberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus)
Bilberry, which looks similar to a blueberry, has gained a reputation for improving night vision. But bilberry can interact with aspirin and other products containing ibuprofen and result in thinning of the blood and bleeding problems during surgery. It’s important to let your physician know what supplements or drugs you’re taking, says Newman-Casey.
“Physicians need to be aware of all your medications, including supplements, to best advise if you’re at risk for a harmful drug interaction,” she says.
Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract
Eye pressure is the name of the game in glaucoma treatment, but gingko supplements may help improve blood flow and improve vision.
More long-term studies are needed to determine if gingko has any proven effect on visual field, Newman-Casey says.
If you’re thinking of taking gingko biloba for your eyes, remember the leaf extract is loaded with more antioxidants than raw gingko seeds.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
When it comes to omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish, such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts and all green leafy vegetables, Americans don’t consume nearly enough. DHA, a type of omega 3 fatty acid, has a role in reducing inflammation and helping cells in the retina heal and regenerate after damage from light exposure and aging.
Do you need supplements?
Your diet should always be your primary source for obtaining vitamins and minerals for your body. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating antioxidant-rich foods can help protect against cellular damage and could contribute to improving your eye health.
However, the National Eye Institute says the high levels of vitamins and minerals tested in AREDS is difficult to achieve from diet alone.