Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
In scientific circles, it is well established that free radicals and inflammation play key roles in damaging vision. The eyes are constantly bombarded by ultraviolet rays and environmental pollution, which in turn trigger the production of free radicals and inflammation. Eating a nutrient-poor, proinflammatory diet and smoking do the same thing.
The following antioxidant-rich supplements can help preserve your vision and prevent devastating eye conditions.
Best Supplements for Eye Health
1. Take Lutein & Zeaxanthin Together
These two nutrients generally occur together in nature and are particularly concentrated in the eye. Both are antioxidants, and therefore protect against free radicals and inflammation. Lutein and zeaxanthin also filter out potentially damaging light, much like a nutritional version of sunglasses. And they help to keep cell membranes stable, which helps the eye maintain a healthy structure.
Studies have found that people who get higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, from either food or supplements, are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or cataracts. Spinach and other green vegetables are good food sources, but because nutrient levels in today’s food are often depleted, supplements provide a more predictable amount.
2. Focus on DHA from Fish
One of the key omega-3 fats found in fish oil, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is highly concentrated in the cells that make up the light receptors in our eyes. Not only is DHA critical for maintaining healthy cell membranes, it also acts as an antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals. But because our bodies can’t make DHA, we must get sufficient amounts from our diets; otherwise, the eye is more susceptible to damage and the conditions that lead to vision loss.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which tracked 3,600 people who already had AMD, found that those who ate the most fish had the slowest progression of the disease.
3. Improve Blood Flow to Eyes with Ginkgo
Studies have found that the herb ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is an effective antioxidant. It fights free radicals and improves circulation in the small blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the eyes. This is valuable for anyone, but particularly for people with blood sugar issues or diabetes, since these diseases impair circulation. This can lead to poor vision. Two small human studies have found that ginkgo improves blood flow to the eyes in people with glaucoma.
4. Preserve Vision with Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that is beneficial for preventing and treating all major forms of eye disease. The AREDS study found it effective for AMD. A long-term study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also documented that it reduces cataracts if taken for 10 years or more. And other research, published in Alternative Medicine Review, found that both intravenous and oral vitamin C-in very high doses taken under medical supervision-reduced pressure in the eyes of people with glaucoma.
5. Reduce Cataracts with Bilberry
World War II pilots ate bilberry jam before night bombing raids to improve their vision. The berry contains specific antioxidants known as anthocyanidins that complement other antioxidants. Preliminary research has demonstrated that bilberry prevents both AMD and cataracts. A study found that bilberry helps stop the progression of cataracts in elderly people.
See Also Ultimate Eye Health Guide