About Dr Brian Ang

The Best Vitamins for Eye Health as We Age

Vitamin tablets and capsules

As we age, our eye health can often take a hit. From eye strain and blurry vision to dry eyes, floaters, and irritation, the effects of aging on our vision are undeniable. But the good news is, there are proactive measures you can take to support your eye health over the long term. One of the most effective strategies? Ensuring you’re getting the essential vitamins that protect and support your vision ecosystem.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover the five best vitamins for eye health, along with some common pitfalls to avoid.

Why Do You Need Eye Health Vitamins?

The importance of vitamins for eye health became widely recognized thanks to the pioneering work of George Wald at Harvard University, who won a Nobel Prize for his discovery of vitamin A’s critical role in the retina. Despite these advancements, many people still face declining eye health.

For [the scientist], there is always the further horizon. Science goes from question to question; big questions, and little, tentative answers. The questions as they age grow ever broader, the answers are seen to be more limited.


George Wald,
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), more than half of the population battles at least one chronic eye condition. The prevalence of eye health issues increases with age, with studies showing that one in seven people over 40 exhibit early signs of macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss. Additionally, half of the population over 50 will develop cataracts, and more than 300,000 Australians suffer from glaucoma.

Compounding these issues is the fact that the current older population wasn’t as exposed to harmful blue light from screens as much as today’s younger generations. Research indicates that blue light exposure can increase the risk of cataracts, damage the retina, and exacerbate inflammation. Furthermore, it contributes to dry, irritable eyes, affecting over 77% of the population.

Deteriorating eye health has consequences that extend beyond vision loss. Poor vision can lead to reduced quality of life, increased risk of falls and fractures, and greater social isolation. Therefore, nurturing the entire vision ecosystem is essential to combat the surge in age-related eye health decline.

Diet vs. Supplementation: A Dual Approach to Eye Health

While a healthy diet is foundational to wellness, it’s often not sufficient to meet all our nutritional needs for optimal eye health. For instance, lutein, a carotenoid crucial for eye protection, is present in foods like eggs, broccoli, and leafy greens. However, achieving the ideal daily dosage of 10 mg would require consuming an impractical amount of these foods—like eating 10 egg yolks daily.

Moreover, cooking methods can reduce the nutrient content in foods. For example, boiling legumes can diminish their vitamin B3 content by 30%. This is where supplementation becomes vital, delivering precise doses of essential vitamins directly to your system, ensuring your eyes get the nutrients they need.

The Myth of Multivitamins for Eye Health

Multivitamins

It might be tempting to rely on a multivitamin for comprehensive nutritional coverage. However, while vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc, are crucial for eye health, they are typically abundant in a balanced diet. Supplementing these in multivitamin form can sometimes be unnecessary or even harmful.

Vitamin A: While essential for eye health, the form found in most multivitamins (retinol) may not be optimal. Excessive long-term supplementation can lead to toxicity.

Vitamin C: Acts as a natural sunblock for your eyes, providing UV protection. Vitamin C deficiency is rare in the Western world due to ample access to fruits and vegetables. Plus, supplementing with vitamin C beyond dietary intake has been linked to an increased risk of age-related cataracts.

Vitamin E: Known for reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, high doses of vitamin E (over 300 mg daily) can pose health risks. A varied diet rich in nuts and seeds generally meets the daily requirement.

Zinc: Vital for night vision and overall eye health, zinc is readily available in foods like oysters, red meat, and poultry. However, excessive supplementation can cause toxicity.

The Five Best Vitamins for Eye Health

To effectively protect your eyes as you age, you need to focus on specific vitamins that have proven benefits for eye health. These vitamins have been extensively researched and are known to support the entire vision ecosystem, from the cornea to the retina and beyond.

1. L-Methylfolate

Traditional multivitamins often contain folic acid, a form of vitamin B9 that requires multiple conversion steps to become usable by the body. L-methylfolate, however, is a bioactive form of vitamin B9 that is readily absorbable and immediately available for use. This is particularly important as our ability to absorb folate diminishes with age.

L-methylfolate supports red blood cell production and the central nervous system. It benefits vision by supporting optic nerve function and reducing homocysteine levels, an amino acid linked with glaucoma and other eye diseases. Quatrefolic® is a patented form of L-methylfolate combined with glucosamine, ensuring maximum absorption and effectiveness.

2. Methylcobalamin

Methylcobalamin, the bioactive form of vitamin B12, is crucial for DNA synthesis, nerve health, and brain function. It supports the myelin sheath, which protects nerve fibers, including those in the optic nerve. As we age, our ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases, making supplementation essential.

Unlike cyanocobalamin, a less efficiently absorbed form of B12, methylcobalamin is readily utilized by the body and has a high safety profile.

3. Nicotinamide

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is essential for eye health, but it can cause uncomfortable side effects like skin flushing. Nicotinamide, another form of B3, doesn’t cause these side effects and is recognized by the WHO as an essential medicine.

Nicotinamide is easily converted into NAD+, a coenzyme that promotes healthy mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of cells. This is particularly important for retinal ganglion cells, which transmit signals from the retina to the brain. Research has shown that nicotinamide can improve the function of these cells in individuals with glaucoma.

4. Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Marigold flowers are an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that give marigold flowers, paprika, and goji berries their bright colors. These antioxidants filter harmful UV and blue light, protecting the retina and macula from damage. Studies indicate that increased intake of these carotenoids can significantly reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration.

The Comprehensive Solution for Eye Health

Given the extensive evidence supporting the benefits of these vitamins for eye health, supplementing with them is a smart strategy to mitigate the effects of aging on your vision.

You could take these vitamins individually, or for convenience and ease, you could take a combined supplement such as Nutravision, which already combines all the best vitamins for eye health—L-methylfolate (Quatrefolic®), methylcobalamin, nicotinamide, lutein, and zeaxanthin—in one powerful formula.

Your eyes are precious – every investment that you make for your vision is worth it.

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