Seeing Clearly: Foods and Nutrients to Improve Vision
Most people consider it normal that eyesight gets worse with age. Along with gray hair, wrinkles and other “normal signs of aging,” the need for eyeglasses or eye surgery is simply part of the aging process, right? Not necessarily.
Then why do most believe this to be true? Scientists don’t have a clear explanation as to why eyesight for so many people worsens over time. And in the same way many dentists treat oral health without being concerned about how it relates to the rest of the body, most eye doctors ignore everything except your eyes — as if vision has nothing to do with overall health.
This perceived disconnect may be a main reason so many people are slowly losing their vision.
Diabetes And Vision Loss
A report from the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that today’s type 2 diabetes epidemic may be a primary reason so many people under age 40 experience impaired vision. While diabetic retinopathy and other vision problems commonly occur over time in people with diabetes, the study didn’t prove a direct causal relationship. It did, however, suggest that keeping blood sugar and other diabetes factors under control may be an important way to support eye health.
Nutrients and Whole Foods for Vision
The findings of that report can be substantiated by other studies showing that what you eat affects your vision. This is hardly a surprise. Foods that fuel chronic inflammation and free radical damage (such as excess sugars, simple carbs, trans fats, processed foods, non-organic produce and meats) wreak havoc on our most critical organs and tissues. And the eyes are especially vulnerable.
Numerous types of eye conditions (like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration) can lead to gradual loss of vision. However, certain nutrients may make a difference in many of these conditions. The structure of the eye can be particularly sensitive to nutrient deficiencies and free radical damage. Stress and lifestyle habits also impact your vision.
One study, for example, showed that a higher intake of beta carotene, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and protein is connected with a reduced risk of cataracts. Increasing the body’s production of glutathione, a master antioxidant that can enhance detoxification, may also help protect vision. Foods such as whey protein concentrate, broccoli, walnuts, garlic, asparagus and the herb milk thistle help the body produce more of this important anti-aging nutrient.
For glaucoma patients, important nutrients include lipoic acid and essential fatty acids — particularly DHA omega 3. For macular degeneration and overall vision health, antioxidant nutrients lutein, zeaxanthin, vinpocetine and taurine can helpful to protect and support vision, and promote other areas of health in the process. Foods like egg yolk, corn, grapes, spinach, kiwi and squash are good dietary sources of both lutein and zeaxanthin. Dark green vegetables like spinach, kale and broccoli are good sources of lutein; and orange peppers are excellent sources of zeaxanthin.
When supplementing with carotenoid supplements such as beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, it’s important to choose products that contain food-based ingredients, rather than synthetic ones. Be careful not to exceed dosage recommendations.
Also important: vitamins C and E together with the minerals copper and zinc.
Eye health is intricately connected to whole-body health. As with any chronic, age-related health condition, the goals are to reduce inflammation; emphasize targeted, nutrient-dense foods and natural supplements; and maintain a balanced lifestyle with plenty of rest, physical activity and healthy stress relief. These measures won’t just help you see better; they’ll help you enjoy other long-term health benefits such as enhanced vitality, energy, immunity and overall well-being.