Last week, we talked about Workplace Eye Wellness Month. This includes setting up the office space to minimize the effects of digital eye strain. Another important observance for March is National Nutrition Month®, a nutrition education and information campaign created annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Nutrition & Eye Health
While the importance of nutrition is well-known, patients often don’t know the role specific nutrients can have on their eyes. It’s important for eye care professionals to stress eating well to sustain long-term eye health. In a study conducted in 2015, researchers found that diet can even impact patients’ risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Their results said that “overall diet is significantly associated with the odds of AMD and that dietary management as an AMD prevention strategy warrants further study.”
There are certain nutrients that have been proven to positively impact eye health, but the typical American diet is lacking when it comes to these vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These ingredients include:
- Zeaxanthin – this carotenoid is selected by the retina to protect the crisp, clear central vision needed for reading, seeing faces, and driving at night.
- Lutein – in partnership with zeaxanthin, this carotenoid protects the delicate tissues in the eye responsible for peripheral vision.
- Vitamin C – an essential vitamin in iron absorption and the production of the glue that holds the cells in the eyes and brain together.
- Vitamin D3 – maintains adequate levels of Vitamin D in the body and promotes aging eye health. Vitamin D3 deficiency is linked to age-related eye health issues and poor immune, joint, and muscle health.
- Vitamin E – an essential vitamin that slows cellular aging and strengthens blood vessels.
- Omega-3s – nutrients essential to the structure of cell membranes that promote eye, heart, and skin health. Omega-3 deficiency can result in poor eye and brain function.
The Importance of Building Healthy Macular Pigment
Perhaps the two most important antioxidants for eye health are zeaxanthin and lutein. These two powerful nutrients comprise the macular pigment. Working like “internal sunglasses,” this protective pigment filters and absorbs harmful blue light before it reaches the photoreceptors. As mentioned in last week’s post, digital devices emit this wavelength of light, and it tends to scatter more easily, making it more difficult to focus. This causes the “eye strain” felt by those who spend long periods of time looking at these screens.
Healthy, or dense, macular pigment can help reduce the strain and give relief to patients who may be suffering from digital eye strain. Strong macular pigment optical density (MPOD) offers additional visual function benefits like improved visual acuity, glare recovery, light sensitivity, and contrast sensitivity.
Eating more dark, leafy greens and brightly colored fruits and vegetables is a great way for patients to start eating for their eyes. Beyond that, practitioners can prescribe certain eye health nutraceuticals that contain the nutrients to help bridge the dietary gap in vision nutrition, but not all nutraceuticals are the same. Products with high-quality dietary ingredients like dietary zeaxanthin (8 mg or more) tend to give patients the optimal protection their eyes need.
Learn more about our higher levels of high-quality dietary zeaxanthin.
- “National Nutrition Month®.” Eat Right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 1 Mar. 2018, eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/national-nutrition-month.
- “National Nutrition Month 2018: Are You Ready?” Food and Health Communications, Food and Health Communications, Inc., Feb. 2018, com/nutrition-month-are-you-ready/.
- Chiu, Chung-Jung et al. “The Relationship of Major American Dietary Patterns to Age-Related Macular Degeneration.” American journal of ophthalmology 158.1 (2014): 118–127.e1. PMC. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.