The Best Supplements for Aging Eyes

January 27, 2021

The Best Supplements for Aging Eyes

In this article:

  • Common signs of aging eyes
  • Most important vitamins for healthy eyes as you age

Signs of Aging Eyes

Age is one of the major causes of vision loss and poor eye health. It can range in severity from causing dry eyes to total vision loss. Some common age-related eye conditions include:

  • Presbyopia: the loss of ability to see close objects or small print.
  • Floaters: tiny spots or specks that float across the field of vision.
  • Dry eyes / Dry Eye Syndrome: When tears aren't able to provide adequate moisture causing redness, dryness, and inflammation.
  • Tearing: Excessive production of tears, typically due to dry eye syndrome which depletes it of natural oils. AKA watery eyes.
  • Cataracts: Hazy films that develop on the lens
  • Glaucoma: A condition caused by excess pressure in the eyes which can lead to vision loss
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Blurred or distorted vision due to damage at the center of the retina
  • Diabetic retinopathy: Vision loss caused by dysfunctional blood vessels within the eyes. This is linked to people with type 2 diabetes.

As with any health condition, your doctor will know the best path to follow to protect your eye health. However, now that our eyes are constantly turned to screens and blue lights, it's never too early to be on the lookout for vitamins and minerals that may boost your eye health and overall wellness.

Most Important Vitamins for Healthy Eyes

The National Eye Institute has conducted a number of age-related eye disease studies (AREDS) and measured the impact of the following dietary supplements. They also created dietary supplements called AREDS and AREDS2 that contain a combination of vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, copper, and zinc, and tested the results against a placebo. Here are some of their findings:

  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in many different foods - including carrots. Also referred to as all-trans-retinol, vitamin A helps to produce rhodopsin, a protein that allows you to see in low light conditions. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness. Getting adequate levels of vitamin A may also help to prevent cataracts and advanced AMD. Fun fact, vitamin A is what enables night vision which is why they promoted eating carrots to people during World War II blackouts! In addition to carrots, you can get your vitamin A from eggs, skim milk, cereals, and foods high in beta carotene, which the body absorbs and converts into vitamin A.
  • B Vitamins: B-complex vitamins including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) B6, B9, and B12 have been found to help lower inflammation and therefore may decrease vascular problems involving the retina of the eye. Niacin, or vitamin B3 in particular, may be especially beneficial in preventing glaucoma, though more studies are needed. You can get vitamin B from meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, legumes, leafy greens, seeds and breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin C: Did you know that vitamin C is an antioxidant? Studies have found that vitamin C supplementation could decrease your risk of getting cataracts and AMD and may slow the progression of either condition. Additionally, vitamin C is a precursor to producing collagen, a protein that's found in the eyes. We'll discuss that more below! There is lots of vitamin C in citrus fruits, guava, cherries, peppers, broccoli, papayas, strawberries, thyme, and parsley to name a few. Vitamin C deficiency (AKA scurvy) is relatively rare but can occur in people who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E is another antioxidant that minimizes oxidative stress, or the damage free radicals inflict on your eyes. Eating a diet high in vitamin E may result in a lower risk of developing the aforementioned eye conditions. In particular, one study found that a patient's risk of progressing to advanced stages of AMD was reduced by 25% after taking nutritional supplements with vitamin E and other ingredients.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Both lutein and zeaxanthin are types of carotenoids or fat-soluble pigments. These carotenoids can be found in the macula and retina, where their job is to protect against harmful blue light. As you probably already know, blue light is emitted from our devices and blue light filtering glasses are a cheap and safe solution to help protect our eye health. Additionally, just 6mg of lutein and zeaxanthin (which can easily be found in your diet) may prevent age-related eye conditions. Lutein and Zeaxanthin can be found in your dark leafy greens, peas, pumpkins, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and asparagus.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: High concentrations of DHA, an omega-3, can be found in the retina, brain, and sperm cells. Preliminary studies have shown that in addition to building retinal cells, DHA may help to prevent and control diabetic retinopathy (DR) and dry eye syndrome. You can get omega-3s through foods such as fish or in fish oil capsules, though vegan sources such as algae are also available.
  • Collagen: Though few studies have been done specifically on collagen supplements and their role in maintaining healthy eyesight or preventing specific age-related eye issues, we do know that collagen structurally makes up the majority of our eyes. As we age, our collagen production slows and our collagen "stores" can become damaged by oxidative stress. Collagen mutations caused by damage have also been linked to glaucoma. Collagen is typically on the top of the list of "anti-aging supplements" so if you are concerned about age-related eyesight decline, it may kill two birds with one stone.

Whether visual acuity is starting to set in or if you just want to support your overall health, consuming a daily multivitamin that contains high doses of the above "eye vitamins" can set you off on the right path. The first step is to discuss your concerns with an ophthalmologist who can assess and diagnose your condition(s). Then, they should be able to recommend the best treatment and prevention options. As always, the best thing you can do to protect the health of all your organs, eyes included, is to live a healthy lifestyle, eat tons of green leafy vegetables, meet with a healthcare professional to fill in your nutritional gaps, and of course, eat your carrots!

Summary Points

  • Also referred to as all-trans-retinol, vitamin A helps to produce rhodopsin, a protein that allows you to see in low light conditions
  • Vitamin C is a precursor to producing collagen, a protein that's found in the eyes
  • Collagen structurally makes up the majority of our eyes
  • As we age, our collagen production slows and our collagen "stores" can become damaged by oxidative stress

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