We all want healthy eyes and good vision, but balancing the perfect diet for optimal eye health can be intimidating. This is where many people turn to supplements to fill in the gaps. But do supplements actually do us any good? The short answer is yes, eye health supplements can help eyes stay healthy, but only if they are used correctly.
What are supplements?
Supplements are pills, powders or liquids that contain various nutrients like amino acids, enzymes or vitamins. In theory, they are a great way to make sure you get all the nutrients you need every day. But there are a few downsides to supplements.
The biggest barrier to success from a supplement regimen is the overall lack of industry regulation. Unlike prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, the FDA does not have much power over the supplement industry. What this means is that supplements are not tested before they hit store shelves and there is no guarantee that the supplement you’re buying will provide the promised benefit or that it even contains the promised ingredients.
There is also the issue of bioavailability. Just because you ingest a nutrient doesn’t mean your body can actually process and use it. How well we handle certain nutrients depends a lot on age and body composition. And some nutrients absorb much better when paired together. Vitamin C, for example, can help you absorb both iron and calcium, hence why you see so many brands of orange juice boasting added calcium.
Some nutrients also exist in different forms which may be more or less bioavailable than others. Take a closer look at those calcium supplements, are they calcium citrate, calcium phosphate or calcium carbonate?
Most research into the effectiveness of supplements has produced findings that are a mixed bag, at best. There’s definitely potential for supplements to improve and maintain health, but the unregulated nature of the industry means you won’t find much certainty on a grocery store shelf.
The AREDS formulation
But none of this means you should give up on the idea of supplements entirely. For those concerned specifically with eye health, there is a combination of nutrients that when grouped together in a supplement have shown promise in fighting age-related macular degeneration. These nutrients are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper and together they form what is known as the AREDS formulation.
In studies, the vision supplements conforming to the AREDS formulation decreased participants likelihood of developing AMD when taken in high doses and on a daily basis.
Ingredients for healthy eyes
The following nutrients are some of the most critical to eye health and you should strive to get adequate amounts in your daily diet.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin
So how do you make sure you’re covering all these basis within your diet alone? It’s not really that hard, just make a concerted effort to up your intake of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and milk. Then consider replacing red meats with leaner options like fish and chicken. You may also want to avoid some of the unhealthier foods out there, some of which can be particularly damaging to your eyes.
Other tips for healthy eyes
You’ll find that most eye health tips are similar to general health tips. This is because with good health comes good eye health. Eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and getting lots of quality sleep will improve your overall health and functionality, eyes included.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing natural that will up your vision. While healthy choices can help you maintain the vision you have, no amount of carrots will change your eyeglasses prescription. Contact lenses or prescription glasses are required to give your vision greater clarity. Fortunately, you can find cheap glasses online without buying from your eye doctor. 39DollarGlasses.com stocks all the same, high-quality lenses at a fraction of the cost. Prescription sunglasses, too! Just provide a valid prescription and get your glasses or contacts delivered.
Conclusion: are supplements for eye health worth it?
The answer to this question is different for every individual. As a general rule, an otherwise healthy adult has little use for supplements. All the nutrients you need can be obtained from your diet, and when found in food, most nutrients are easier for the body to absorb and utilize. However, if you think supplements may be helpful to you, consult with your doctor for a recommendation. Otherwise you may be wasting your money.
Your eye doctor will be able to tell you if you need to take any supplements for your eyes. Those who are at high risk of macular degeneration may be put onto AREDS. This is the one known exception to the “you can get everything from your diet” rule. The levels of various nutrients in AREDS are much higher than what can be naturally obtained through food.
The bottom line is that if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, that health will extend to your eyes. So try to eat healthy, get a little exercise, and keep up with your yearly eye exams. Do these three things, and your healthy eyes will stay with you for years to come.