A recent review published as an Expert Opinion in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging outlines the link between specific nutrients and eye health. But the review, funded by a grant from Bausch + Lomb, also found that many Americans over age 50 don't consume enough of these nutrients in their daily diet to support their eye health.
Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at Tufts University and Helen Rasmussen, Ph.D., R.D., an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University, and authors of this review of published literature, focused on the antioxidants vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosahexaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as important nutrients that can potentially help protect eye health as people age.
"Many adults don't think about their eye health or sight until it's too late to reverse the damage their eyes may have sustained," said Dr. Johnson. "Our review shows that incorporating proper nutrition into the diet can help adults protect their eye health. It's a small step that can go a long way."
The review highlighted data from the most recent NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) which indicates that most Americans fall below the optimal intake of these specific nutrients. Further, according to a recent survey conducted by the Ocular Nutrition Society, 78 percent of adults, ages 45-65, rank vision as the most important of their five senses, yet less than half are aware of important nutrients that may play a key role in eye health. Specifically, survey respondents were unaware of the specific nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids (almost 60 percent), lutein (66 percent) and zeaxanthin (nearly 90 percent). Diet is the best way to get these specific nutrients, but for adults who don't get the nutrients needed through diet alone, nutritional supplementation is warranted.
"Many Americans don't consume enough of these eye healthy foods in their daily diets, even though diet is the best way to receive these nutrients," said Michael J. Cooney, M.D., MBA, retina specialist at the Vitreous Retina Macula Consultants. "That's why I recommend an eye vitamin and mineral supplement, such as Ocuvite®1 to help fill the gap when diet alone does not provide the recommended levels."*
While the research found that many Americans are not getting optimal amounts of the eight identified nutrients that may support eye health through their diet, there are many common foods that contain these vital nutrients and antioxidants. Registered dietitian Keri Gans recommends incorporating several of these foods into the daily diet to increase the levels of these vital eye nutrients.
"There are several foods adults can easily add to make their diets more 'eye-friendly,'" said Gans. "For example, make a salad with kale or spinach which are both packed with lutein and zeaxanthin. Or, add berries to yogurt in the morning for extra vitamin C."
Other foods to look for include:
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and broccoli
- Vitamin E: vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts and legumes
- Zinc: oysters, beef and other meats, nuts, legumes and dairy from plant sources of zinc
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, corn, colored bell peppers, goji berries and brussel sprouts
- Omega-3 fatty acids: fish oils from cold water fish like salmon or tuna
- Beta-Carotene: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach