A Focused Vision on Eye Health

eye health

Clear, central vision is essential for everyday life. However, with age, vision loss becomes a common issue. One concern is the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes vision loss over time and is linked to factors such as genetics, smoking and overall nutrition (1). The National Eye Institute (NEI) explains that there’s no established treatment for the earliest stage of AMD (1). However, through study findings, researchers believe supplementation can help delay some of the condition’s symptoms in certain people (1).

Learn About AREDS and AREDS 2 Study Findings
About 15 years ago, researchers developed a supplement protocol for the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) that includes copper, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene (2). The combination was found to reduce AMD risks in study participants by approximately 25% over five years, according to the NEI (2).

Five years later, the same research group modified the original protocol, naming it AREDS 2. They introduced three additional key nutrients said to offer eye health support: omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin (2). While you have heard of omega-3 fatty acids in seafood and fish oil, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in hearty greens such as kale and spinach. These two ingredients are said to be “natural [eye health] antioxidants” (2).

Overall, AREDS 2 study participants “had an 18 percent lower risk of progressing to advanced AMD compared with those who took AREDS containing beta-carotene” (2). When it comes to your eye health longevity, consider exploring supplements with AREDS or AREDS 2 nutrients (1). Based on your individual situation, supplement formulas based on AREDS or AREDS 2 might benefit your overall eye health. Also, AMD-prone individuals—typically those ages 60 years and older—can work on implementing foods into their diet that contain AREDS or AREDS 2 nutrients for supporting eye health.

Cataracts and Your Diet
Ophthalmologists and eye surgeons perform more than two million cataract surgeries each year, making it one of the most common medical procedures (3). Cataract development is attributed to both uncontrollable and controllable factors, according to the American Optometric Association. Factors out of your control can include (but are not limited to) your ethnicity, family history and age (3). On the other hand, you have more control when it comes to day-to-day behaviors such as not smoking, limiting your sun exposure and eating more nutrient-dense food (3).

The American Optometric Association explains how nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin have the ability to prevent cataract development as well as dry eye symptoms (3). The organization suggests that people increase their seed and nut intake to two daily servings and their fruit and vegetable intake to five daily servings (3). Foods and supplements such as broccoli, flax seed oil, fish oil, oranges and almonds are recommended to support eye heath (4). Also, they reduce eye inflammation and are “vital for healthy brain development and retinal function” (5).

What Else Can You Do?
Protecting your eye health is essential as you age. Make sure you’re being proactive. You have the ability to change your lifestyle and take care of your body properly. This might mean eating that extra serving of leafy greens, going for a long walk in your neighborhood a few times per week or giving up smoking. If you’re interested in AREDS or AREDS 2 supplements, do your research and ask your doctor if they could be right for you. Also, it could help to better understand your family’s health history and genetics. Does AMD run in your family? Is anyone in your family currently taking eye health supplements? Ask the questions and find solutions that will benefit your long-term eye health.

And last, individuals of all ages should worry about the effect of blue light on their eye health. Every day, our eyes are exposed to high-energy blue light from televisions, tablets, smart phones, computers, LED car headlights and more. This type of light reaches deep into the eye and can harm the macula, which controls visual acuity and sharpness (6). Some experts believe lutein and the zeaxanthin can help by delivering antioxidants and filtering high-energy blue light (6). WF

1. The National Eye Institute, “Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts, accessed May 13, 2016.
2. The National Eye Institute, “For the Public: What the AREDS Means for You,” https://nei.nih.gov/areds2/PatientFAQ, accessed May 13, 2016.
3. American Optometric Association, “Nutrition and Cataracts,” www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/nutrition/nutrition-and-cataracts?sso=y, accessed May 13, 2016.
4. American Association of Retired Persons, “10 Super Foods to Protect Vision,” www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2011/10_foods_to_help_prevent_eye_disease.html, accessed May 13, 2016.
5. Review of Optometry, “A Fresh Case For Fish Oil,” www.reviewofoptometry.com/article/a-fresh-case-for-fish-oil, accessed May 13, 2016.
6. OmniActive Health Technologies, www.bluelightdefense.com/publications/whats-your-blue, accessed May 23, 2016.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine September 2016