Antioxidants have been found to help prevent eye conditions like macular degeneration. But you don’t need to take vitamins or supplements to get them: Just load up on fruits and veggies!
When you were little, your mom probably talked you into eating your carrots by claiming the veggies would help keep your eyes healthy and your vision strong. Now studies are showing that Mom was right: The vitamins in carrots and other brightly-colored fruits and vegetables actually can help protect against certain diseases of the eye.
Antioxidants are very important for eye health and vision, as these compounds inhibit damage to the eyes from the formation of free radicals in the body, particularly in the retina and lens of the eye, says Carl D. Obenauf, MD, founding partner of North Central Eye Associates in Norwalk, Ohio. So how can you get the antioxidants you need?
The Importance of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of potent antioxidants, says Dr. Obenauf, and a very large study on the subject found they can be beneficial for eye diseases like macular degeneration.
“The benefits of antioxidants were demonstrated in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which concluded that in certain types of macular degeneration, benefits were obtained by the use of a combination vitamin A as beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and the minerals zinc and copper.
More studies are being conducted to determine exactly what effects lutein, zeaxanthin, and other vitamins have on vision and eye health. So far, evidence does show that these antioxidants can help to prevent and slow macular degeneration, a condition which causes debilitating vision loss.
What else is being studied now when it comes to nutrition, vitamins, and vision?
“Currently, a long-term study (AREDS II) is ongoing, studying the possible benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids in macular degeneration,” notes Obenauf. The study is also trying to determine if these vitamins can help to reduce cataracts.
Another trial will also look at the impact of low-dose zinc on the development or progression of macular degeneration.
“We hope AREDS II will give further insight as to treatment for macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of adult visual loss in the United States,” Obenauf says.
Eating for Healthier Eyes
With all the research pointing to huge benefits for eye health and good vision from lutein and zeaxanthin, you may wonder whether you should take supplements for better vision. But Obenauf says that eye supplements aren’t necessary to get all the vitamins for eye health that you need.
“Considering all supplements, it is important to first have a well-balanced diet and obtain these and other nutrients naturally,” he says. “Currently there is not an existing scientific study that can state that the usage of these supplements will prevent macular degeneration.”
Instead, ward off eye problems by eating the following foods, which are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin:
Listen to your mother and eat your fruits and vegetables. They may help you see clearly into a long, vibrant, and healthy future.