Can Supplements Improve Your Vision and Ocular Health?

Submitted by Elman Retina Group on October 18, 2021
Vitamins/ diet and ocular health

Like the rest of your body, your eyes benefit from the consumption of certain nutrients. Eye-friendly vitamins and minerals may reduce the risk of serious disease and keep your eyes functioning optimally.

Ideally, you should get most of these nutrients from your daily diet. However, the average American diet is deficient in many key nutrients. An alternative option is the use of daily supplements as a source of vitamins and minerals.

Whether you should take a supplement for ocular health is highly individualized.  The team at Elman Retina Group believes you should consult with us or your regular eye doctor before starting any supplements or making other major lifestyle changes. To help guide that conversation, we have some general information to share.

What the Research Says

The most influential research about supplements and eye health is from the original Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and its follow-up (AREDS2). These groundbreaking studies showed that a specific combination and amount of vitamins and minerals can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Since millions of Americans have declining vision and vision loss due to AMD, the implications of these studies are far-reaching.

According to the findings of the studies, if you have early or intermediate macular degeneration, taking a daily multivitamin with the AREDS or AREDS2 formula can reduce your risk of developing advanced AMD. Although the supplements cannot prevent AMD from developing altogether, if you already have the disease, you could avoid losing vision to it.

The AREDS2 formula, which modified and improved upon the original AREDS formula, includes lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids, or plant-based micronutrients, are thought to protect the eyes from light-induced damage. The AREDS2 formula also contains vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc oxide and cupric oxide (copper), all of which have been identified as eye-friendly nutrients.

Eating for Your Eye Health

Whether you have AMD or not, nutrition is important — not only for ocular health but also for your whole body health. Though research on nutrition’s effect on other eye diseases, such as glaucoma, is not as thorough or influential as the AREDS/AREDS2 studies, organizations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association believe everyone should eat certain vitamins and minerals for the sake of their eyes. For example, some studies link the consumption of vitamin C with a lower risk of cataracts.

You may already be eating foods that are eye-friendly without even knowing it! The following foods are considered good for your eyes:

  • Abundant in vitamin C: Citrus fruits, tomatoes and green peppers
  • Abundant in vitamin E: Nuts, sweet potatoes, vegetable oils and wheat germ
  • Abundant in vitamin A: Milk products, egg yolks and carrots
  • Abundant in omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish, nuts and seeds

There is some research data that suggests that the spice turmeric may have some beneficial effects for AMD. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is a carotenoid similar to lutein and zeaxanthin (which are found in the AREDS vitamins). Curcumin has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which is the underlying reason for turmeric’s potential therapeutic effects in AMD. However, better large clinical trials are needed to study this before any official recommendations from the retina community can be made.

There is actually strong evidence showing that following the Mediterranean diet — which is rich in fish, leafy green vegetables, legumes, fruits, olive oil and whole grains —  could lower the risk of developing and/or worsening AMD and other diseases that affect the eyes.

Contact Elman Retina Group

If you are concerned about getting the vitamins and minerals you need through your diet, or you would like to learn more about taking an AREDS2 multivitamin for AMD, Elman Retina Group is here for you. Call or email us today.