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How to Choose the Best Eye Vitamins

Most of us know how important it is to have adequate nutrition and vitamins. However, few of us know just how big of an impact these nutrients have on our eyes. The science of nutrition has moved forward a lot, with doctors now realizing that it is not just about nutritional deficiencies, but also about nutritional excesses of refined products, proteins, sugar, and fat. So how do you choose the best vitamins?

A Healthy Diet for Your Eyes

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has worked together with the Department of Agriculture to devise the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. According to this, a healthy diet includes:

  • Lots of fat free dairy products, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits
  • Nuts, eggs, beans, fish, poultry, and lean meats
  • Few added sugars, salts, cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats

AREDS and AREDS2

There have been two important studies commissioned by the National Eye Institute on the benefits of supplements for the eye. These studies are AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) and AREDS2. Thousands of people took part in these studies over a period of five years. The results of both were impressive:

  • AREDS was a supplement containing 15mg of beta-carotene, 250mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 80mg of zinc, and 2mg of copper. The study, published in 2001, showed that people who took this supplement were at a 25% reduced risk of developing vision loss as a result of pre-existing macular degeneration (AMD). Those with advanced AMD saw the chance of vision loss drop by 19%. No benefits were reported for those without any AMD. Unfortunately, it was also found that taking AREDS placed certain population groups at an increased risk of lung cancer, linked to the beta-carotene.
  • AREDS2 aimed to remove the increased risk of lung cancer. As such, studies took place in omega 3 fatty acids, zeaxanthin, and lutein. The results, published in 2013 looked at the new formulation, which removed the beta-carotene and included 10mg of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin. Those with AMD reduced their risk of advanced AMD by 18%. Those with no AMD had a 25% lower risk of developing AMD. The omega 3 fatty acids did not seem to influence results either way.

Eye Vitamins

Vitamins can be water soluble or fat soluble. The body can store fat soluble ones, which are vitamins A, D, E, and K. Water soluble ones, vitamins C and B, are flushed out of the body and must therefore be replaced. The table below shows the effect the different vitamins can have on our eyes.

Vitamin Effect Natural Food Sources Dangers
A The first to ever be investigated, it was called ‘A’. has specific benefits, including:

  • Building healthy skin.
  • Building a strong immune system.
  • Building a healthy retina.
  • Keeping the eyes moist.
  • Apricots
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Can be toxic.
  • Not recommended for past or present smokers.
B1 or Thiamin
  • Helps certain chemical reactions in the body take place.
  • Deficiencies affect the nervous system and the heart.
  • Glaucoma patients generally have lower thiamin levels.
B2 or riboflavin
  • Controls reduction and oxidation reactions in the body.
  • Regulates pyridoxine and niacin.
  • Deficiencies can lead to cataracts and skin changes.
B3 or niacin
  • Produces the coenzymes necessary for breaking down amino acids, fatty acids, and carbohydrates.
  • Fights cataracts.
B6 or pyridoxine
  • Forms niacin and creates various chemical reactions.
  • Regulates red blood cells.
  • Necessary to break down protein.
  • Deficiencies increase the chance of heart disease.
B12
  • Manufactures DNA.
  • Produces protein.
  • Deficiencies can damage the spinal cord and brain.
  • Affects memory and thinking.
  • Deficiency can lead to optic nerve damage.
Folic Acid
  • Helps chemical reactions for amino acids.
  • Deficiency can lead to anemia.
  • Deficiency can lead to birth defects.
  • Deficiency may degenerate the optic nerve.
C
  • Naturally present in the eye.
  • Prevents cataracts.
  • Forms collagen.
  • Helps functioning of other vitamins.
  • Lower levels in smokers.
  • The vitamin is destroyed when cooked.
D
  • Not a vitamin, but a hormone.
  • Regulates calcium.
  • Deficiency has been shown to be linked to nearsightedness.
  • Deficiencies may lead to keratoconus, cataracts, and pink eye.
  • The sun
E
  • Found in the eye’s lens.
  • Defends against antioxidants.
  • Found in the retina.
  • Helps prevent AMD.
  • Helps prevent cataracts.
  • Deficiencies can lead to cataracts and AMD.

The above table does not mean that you should supplement with virtually every vitamin on the market. Rather, you need to be aware of your diet, as most vitamins and nutrients can be obtained through healthy food choices alone. Do also refer to the AREDS2 study, although only if you already have signs of AMD. Always speak to your physician before deciding to take any supplements, even over the counter ones.

Comparing the AREDS2 Ingredients

To date, the AREDS2 formulation is the only formulation that can safely prevent the progression of AMD, although there is no evidence to show that it helps to actually prevent eye diseases in the first place. That said, other ingredients have been shown to have some benefits to overall eye health as well. The table below shows what is now scientifically known.

Ingredient Dosage Benefits to Eye and Health
Lutein 5mg
  • Can prevent AMD.
Bilberry extract 10mg
  • Reduces the risk of eye hemorrhages through antioxidants.
  • Improves night vision.
Citrus bioflavonoid 250mg
  • Found naturally in bilberries.
  • Increases retina’s small vessels’ blood flow.
  • Reduces chance of developing AMD.
Omega 3 flax meal 500mg
  • Affects retinal health.
  • Regulates intraocular pressure.
  • Aids lacrimal drainage.
  • Lowers chance of developing AMD by 39%.
Beat-carotene 25,000 UI
  • Helps in vision’s bio-electrical processes.
  • Eliminates damaged eye cells.
  • Can lead to increased chance of lung cancer in current and past smokers.
Vitamin A 5,000 IU
  • Helps keep vision sharp and clear.
  • Improves night vision.
Vitamin C 1,000mg
  • Reduces chance of developing cataracts.
  • Delays and/or prevents AMD thanks to antioxidants.
  • Regulates intraocular pressure.
  • Lowers chances of developing glaucoma.
  • Reduces chance of optic nerve damage.
Natural vitamin E 200 IU
  • Can prevent AMD.
  • Can prevent cataracts.
  • Must be taken with other vitamins.
Vitamin B2 40mg
  • Links collagen to strengthen the cornea.
  • Stops keratoconus from happening.
Rutin NF 100mg
  • Benefits the entire body through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Strengths capillaries.
Selenium 100mcg
  • Helps absorb vitamin E to create antioxidants to improve eye health.
Chromium 200mcg
  • Reduces levels of blood sugar.
  • Strengthens small blood vessels around the retina.
Zinc 25mg
  • Helps absorb and covert vitamin A.
  • Protects against AMD.
  • Protects against night blindness.

Which Supplement Should You Choose?

When it comes to picking your brand of vitamins, you have to make sure you look mainly at the ingredient levels and daily requirements, with price being less important. Good vitamins contain at least vitamins A, C, E, and B2. It should also contain selenium and zinc. Since AREDS2, it is also common to find lutein in eye health supplements. If you are a current or past smoker, make sure there is no beta-carotene in the supplement. Additionally, always speak to your physician first before you self-medicate.

New Research on Eye Health and Vitamins

Researchers are constantly looking at improving their knowledge on overall eye health. What is now known includes:

  • Beta-carotene increases the chance of past or present smokers developing lung cancer.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin can be a substitute for beta-carotene, in fact having better effects.
  • Omega 3 helps with dry eye syndrome, but not with AMD.
  • Only 25mg of zinc is needed. Increasing this to 80mg has no positive effect.
  • Those with early AMD are most in need of supplements.
  • A final little fact to know: your visual system and your brain make up just 2% of the total weight of your body. However, between them, they use around 25% of all your daily nutritional intake overall.

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