A good diet and a healthy lifestyle can work wonders for your eyesight. While eye supplements will not solve existing eye problems, supplements can be a preventative measure taken to potentially avoid the development of eye disease later on in life. These eye supplements are not a necessity to good eye health, especially in those with a balanced and healthy diet. However, speak with your doctor about these supplements if you are concerned with your eye health and want to explore additional options. Be sure to talk to your doctor before introducing new supplements into your regimen or changing current dosages. These are the 9 most important dietary supplements that may improve eye health.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are powerful carotenoids that can help protect your eyes from free radicals. Supplements that can help protect from free radicals are often called antioxidants. These two antioxidants will sit in the retina, specifically in the back of the eye called the macula region. Since your eyes are exposed to oxygen and light which creates oxidation of the free radicals, taking these two supplements together can lead to long term preventative health from Age-related Macular Degeneration and Cataracts. Note: Look for supplements that contain between 6-20/mg of Lutein, and around 2-4/mg of Zeaxanthin.
The essential trace mineral Zinc is considered the carrier or helper mineral due to its role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina to help create a protective pigment in the eye called melanin. The body does not typically produce enough Zinc on its own. Most Americans do not get enough Zinc in their diet, which can lead to earlier cases of Age-related Macular Degeneration(AMD). Note: The FDA recommends 11/mg a day for men and 8/mg a day for women to fill in deficiencies. Those with a family history of AMD can benefit from taking upwards of 50/mg a day.
The main antioxidant of the body, vitamin E is considered the main protector of your cells. This is why it’s an important part of your eye health. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body does not produce on its own and protects your eyes from those pesky free radicals. Studies have shown that taking vitamin E, along with vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc can all work together in slowing AMD as well as cataracts. Note: The FDA only recommends 22IU of vitamin E per day, but many studies have shown results when individuals take 400IU’s a day. This is what the average vitamin E supplement will contain. Warning: With any fat-soluble vitamin, these vitamins do store in the body and are not recommended to be taken in excess.
Vitamin A will typically come in two different forms: retinol which comes from animal-based foods, and carotenoids, the most common being beta-carotene. These antioxidant compounds are responsible for being the first line of defense for our eyes. The vitamin plays a crucial part in protecting our eyes by helping the surface of the eye with the mucous membranes and skin. They will then protect us from bacteria and viruses, which reduces the risk of eye infections. Note: When choosing a vitamin A supplement, see what form of vitamin A it contains. If it has beta-carotene as the source, you can take upward of 25,000IU without any adverse side effects. If it is retinol, take 5,000IU or less.
All cells in the body also rely on vitamin C. Between your gums, teeth, capillaries, and cartilage, this vitamin is necessary for healthy transportation of nutrients to the eyes. Vitamin C is essential when it comes to the blood vessels of the eyes. This antioxidant vitamin will help keep blood flow constantly pumping toward your eyes. Several studies have linked the increased intake of vitamin C to be beneficial to fighting off Cataracts. By increasing the delay of onset for Cataracts, researches have said that nearly half of all cataract surgeries could be avoided. Note: The FDA recommends taking 90/mg a day for men, and 75/mg a day from women. Most studies have shown that taking upwards of 300-500/mg a day has much better results when it comes to preventative eye care. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that taking excess amounts will have little to no risk beyond a possible upset stomach.
B vitamins play vital roles in our body. They are needed for all coenzyme reactions. This means if we don’t get enough B vitamins, our health can be harmed beyond just our eyesight. Look to take the below vitamins individually, or in a B-Complex supplement.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin is arguably the most important of B vitamins when it comes to eye health. Riboflavin is needed to help protect glutathione. Glutathione is an important antioxidant found throughout our body and concentrates in the eye. Increasing the intake of riboflavin has been linked to preventing the development of cataracts. Note: Because riboflavin is water-soluble, you can typically take above the recommended daily allowance without any adverse effects. Look for supplements that range from 25-100/mg to take daily.
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Niacin is a part of the group of B vitamins necessary for converting food into energy. Beyond that, there is now an association between niacin and glaucoma prevention. Keep in mind, taking too much niacin can cause adverse reactions such as flushing of the skin. Note: Keep niacin under 500mg/ a day for optimal results.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
A vital vitamin that is required for proper cell function, this B vitamin can be helpful when it comes to reducing the risk of cataracts. Thiamine has also been shown to be a possible treatment for those with diabetic retinopathy. Note: The recommended daily allowance is 100/mg three times a day for helping with diabetic retinopathy. While those looking to help prevent cataracts should stick to 100/mg once a day.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Folate (Vitamin B9), and Cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
These three B vitamins seem to work together when it comes to the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. They work together to reduce elevated blood levels of homocysteine, which can possibly damage the blood vessels in your eyes. Opt for absorbable forms of these B vitamins. B6 should be called P-5-P (pyridoxal-5-phosphate), B9 should be called methylfolate, and B12 should be called methylcobalamin. Note: The usual dosages should sit at 50/mg a day for B6, 800/mcg a day for B9, and 1/mg a day for B12.
A close relative of the American blueberry, bilberries seem to be promising for preventing eye fatigue throughout the day. As more people look at their screens every day, we find our eyes more fatigued than ever. Supplementing with bilberry has similar effects to any fruit. It works as an antioxidant to help prevent inflammation in the blood vessels. This allows cells to survive for longer, which helps to delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other retinal disorders. Note: Make sure you are taking the extract version of bilberry instead of the powdered version. Dosages should sit between 80-120/mg a day.
L-Citrulline and L-Arginine
These two amino acids work together to increase the amount of nitric oxide in the system. They play an important role in blood pressure and cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of blood flow in the blood vessels. The two blood flow enhancers can work together by increasing the amount of nutrient delivery to the eyes. As well as carrying unnecessary nutrients like sugar away from the eye. This improves symptoms associated with diabetic retinopathy. Note: When picking these supplements up, look to take them at a 1:1 ratio of 1.5 total grams each a day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The two primary portions of Omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Dry eye syndrome is becoming more prominent as the use of technology continues. The decrease in DHA-related foods in the average American diet is a contributing factor. And without EPA, DHA can not form properly and store in the body. Note: When looking at an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement, make sure you are getting .5 to 1.0 grams of EPA and DHA combined. Many supplements will mislead you by stating they have a high fish oil content but in reality will contain very little of EPA and DHA (the important stuff). Taking upward of 3 grams a day is generally considered safe by the FDA.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Eye Supplements Improve Vision?
There is no guaranteed, scientific proof that supplements can improve vision. But the AREDS and AREDS2 studies do point to a correlation between improved vision of those with age-related eye diseases and supplement intake. The recommended vitamins, developed from the results of these studies, is:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
It’s important to note, however, the supplements did not prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or restore already lost vision.
How Can I Improve My Vision Naturally?
Besides keeping a healthy, balanced diet and consuming vitamins that may improve vision health, you can implement the following 5 changes to keep your vision healthy naturally:
- Schedule regular eye exams
- Give your eyes regular breaks to prevent digital eye strain
- Take proper care of contact lenses if you wear contacts
- Use sunglasses with UV protection when outside
- Get enough sleep each night (7 to 9 hours for the average adult)
Note: These are not guarantees you will not develop vision problems. These changes also won’t be able to fix pre-existing vision problems.
What Vitamins Are Good for Dry Eyes?
Omega-3, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A are all potentially good for those suffering from dry eyes. But, the debate is ongoing as more studies are needed to prove or disprove their usefulness. A 2009 study found Vitamin A to be as effective as topical cyclosporine (a typical dry eye treatment method) for treating dry eye. Though further studies would need to be conducted to prove the results of the 2009 study.
How to Create a New Vitamin Regimen
Warning: Speak with a doctor before making any changes to your supplement intake, especially if you are taking medication, nursing, or pregnant. Consider your age and gender when deciding on new vitamins to implement into your regimen. Everybody is a bit different and age and gender are only two of the major factors used to discern helpful vitamins and pointless vitamins in your routine. You should also consider:
- Dietary habits
- Health concerns
Be sure to reevaluate your needs regularly to make necessary changes and updates. Never take more than the recommended dosage and always consult with a doctor before making any major changes to your diet and supplement intake. Contact your optometrist to discuss your eye health if you are concerned with recent vision changes.
When was your last eye exam?
We recommend getting an eye exam every year for optimal eye health.