As previously mentioned, many of the vitamins and minerals necessary for good eye health cannot be naturally produced by your body and must therefore be taken in as a part of your diet. But not everyone will readily have access to some of the foods listed above - sometimes they are priced out of one’s range, sometimes they may not be available in all areas of the country. One possible way to overcome this is through the use of dietary supplements.
A large research trial, called the 'Age-Related Eye Disease Study' (AREDS), showed that high quantities of the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene and the minerals zinc (as zinc oxide), and copper (as cupric oxide), can help to slow down the progression of AMD. It would normally be very hard to obtain the large quantity of vitamins used in the trial from your diet. Therefore some people who already have AMD may consider supplementation with vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Such high dosages of vitamins and minerals might have possible side effects on the body. For this reason it is very important to consult your doctor first before taking a supplement.
Following the AREDS research trial there have been over 150 smaller scale studies looking at how vitamins and minerals, both from food and in a vitamin supplement, can help eye health in general, and in particular AMD and cataracts. A number of these studies have looked specifically at the carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin (see above) which have been particularly associated with healthy eyes.
As a result of these studies there are now a number of different supplements for eye health on the market.
However, research has shown that many people in the UK do not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet. Some people might consider taking a supplement for their general and eye health when:
- their diet does not include enough fresh fruit and vegetables
- diet does not include enough vitamins and minerals
- vitamins and minerals from food are not adequately absorbed by the body
- it is hard to obtain or prepare fresh fruit and vegetables
- they have been told to take a supplement by their doctor or nutritionist.
However, experts agree that taking supplements is not a substitute for a healthy diet.
A consensus has been reached on the importance of a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach.
Key points to remember:
- eat a good, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
- discuss changing your diet or taking vitamin supplements with your GP
- discuss your diet or taking a vitamin supplement with your GP if you believe that your diet may be inadequate
- the biggest avoidable risk is smoking
- protect your eyes from sunlight. Use good quality sunglasses that offer complete 100% UV400 protection, such as Polaroid polarised sunglasses.
- get your eyes tested at least every two years and more frequently if necessary.