Eye Health: The Key Nutrients

Our eyes are one of our most precious sensory organs which is why it’s important to maintain them. There are a number of ways to ensure we’re keeping our eyes in the best possible condition, these include taking eye tests every other year (as recommended by the NHS), limiting alcohol intake, avoiding smoking, using sun protection, and ensuring we’re including eye nutrients in our diet. Below are some of the key nutrients for promotion and maintenance of healthy eyes.

.

.

Astaxanthin

.

Astaxanthin is a richly coloured, red carotenoid pigment and potent antioxidant. Haematocococcus Pluvialis microalgae is a natural source of astaxanthin and the strongest with antioxidant values 6000x that of vitamin C. Research indicates astaxathin has numerous health benefits, including for the eyes.

.

Two leading causes of visual impairment and blindness are age-related macular degeneration and age-related cataracts and both these conditions appear to be linked to light-induced oxidative processes within the eyes. Research indicates that a high dietary intake of carotenoids such as astaxanthin is associated with a lowered risk of developing both age-related cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, this is because astaxanthin has been shown to deposit in the retina of mammals and reducing damage caused by UV light [2].

.

Sources of Astaxanthin:

.

Haematococcus Pluvialis

Lobster

Crab

Wild salmon

.

.

Lutein, Zeaxanthin & Meso-Zeaxanthin

.

Lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin together form the macular pigment within the eye. This pigment is commonly referred to as our ‘internal sunglasses’, this is because it’s tasked with protecting the macula from blue light, however these carotenoids are also potent antioxidants, reducing oxidative stress within the eye caused by free radicals. All 3 macular carotenoids are very similar in structure but, unlike the lutein and zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin is a non-dietary carotenoid that is not known to naturally occur in plants like lutein and zeaxanthin, instead, meso-zeaxanthin is converted within the body by a process known as isomerisation.

.

There’s been a significant amount of research into carotenoids and their benefits for eyesight. BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor conducted an experiment, testing the theory that increasing the levels of macular pigments in our diet can help improve eyesight. Michael Mosley took supplements containing the 3 macular pigments (lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin) every day for 12 weeks. Results showed that many aspects of his vision had markedly improved [3].

.

The beneficial effects of the macular carotenoids have since been reiterated in a major 2 year programme lead by Professor John Nolan at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland. The study involved over 100 people whom had been diagnosed with the early stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness. Those with AMD generally experience continued worsening of their eyesight, however, results showed that consuming carotenoid supplements significantly improved the participants vision in 24 out of 32 tests carried out, counteracting the negative effect of their AMD [4].

.

Sources of Macular Carotenoids:

.

Eye supplements

Leafy greens e.g. Kale & spinach

Eggs

.

.

Anthocyanins

.

Anthocyanins are also thought to be an important nutrient for maintaining eyesight. Anthocyanins are a type of polyphenol, which have been shown to protect a range of retinal cell types from oxidative stress-induced cell death [5]. In terms of dietary sources, both blackberries and bilberries are both high in anthocyanins, which is why we’ve included both in our Eye Complex 7.

.

Blackcurrants produce substances called “Phytochemicals” to protect themselves from their growing environment. This explains why, as the environments where blackcurrants grow differ so much. Grown in New Zealand’s cold winters, long sunshine hours and strong UV rays in summers, New Zealand blackcurrants produce much more “Phytochemicals” in them than blackcurrants grown in other parts of Europe. Due to this, we only use New Zealand blackcurrants in our supplements.

.

.

.

Links

.

[1] NHS (2018). Look After Your Eyes. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/look-after-your-eyes/

[2] Guerin, M., Huntley, M, E., Olaizola, M. (2003). Haematococcus astaxanthin: applications for human health and nutrition. Trends in Biotechnology21(5), 210-216. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0167-7799(03)00078-710.1016/S0167-7799(03)00078-7

[3] BBC (n.d.). Can I Improve My Eyesight? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1f4vsRpHghwGWZcSvRN72xM/can-i-improve-my-eyesight

[4] Hanneken, A., Kalt, W., Milbury, P., & Tremblay, F. (2010). Recent Research on Polyphenolics in Vision and Eye Health. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry58(7), 4001-4007. https://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf903038r

[5] Waterford Institute of Technology. (2017). Research shows AMD vision improvement with dietary supplement use. Retrieved from https://www.wit.ie/news/health_sciences/research-shows-amd-vision-improvement-with-dietary-supplement-use

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *