Nutrition plays an important role in eye health. Some of the common eye problems seen are Cataracts, Diabetic retinopathy, Glaucoma, dry eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration. Night blindness is yet another disease affecting a major chunk of the rural population ultimately causing blindness. According to a 2017 review, globally 250 million people suffer from eye conditions. Hence it is important to take care of our eyes through nutrition and better lifestyle habits. A proper diet can help reduce or prevent the disease severity affecting our eyes.
Nutrients that help in maintenance of eye health include:
- Vitamin A: Deficiency of Vitamin A is the major cause of eye blindness. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the body and hence is not required in major amounts.
Rhodopsin is a purple pigment present in our eyes which provides us with vision during darkness, especially during night time. Without Vitamin A it would be impossible to look around in dim-lit areas. Vitamin A also helps in maintaining the transparency of our eyes and also protects our eyes against bacterial or viral infections.
Sources: Major sources include green leafy vegetables, fishes, liver, eggs, milk and milk products.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: These are yellow coloured antioxidants giving macula of the eye a distinguishing yellow colour. Both are potent antioxidants and help in prevention of eye diseases. They are shown to protect eyes against macular degeneration and other age related eye diseases.
Sources: spinach, broccoli, eggs, corn, peas, tomatoes and orange.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C protects our eyes against oxidative damage. Increased oxidative damage can lead to diseases like cataract, retinopathy, etc.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables, Capsicum, Amla, Citrus fruits like kiwi, orange, mosambi, etc.
- Vitamin E: Just like Vitamin C, Vitamin E plays an antioxidant role. It helps in neutralizing the free radicals and protects our eyes from oxidative damage. An analytical study published in 2015 shows that 7mgs of Vitamin E reduced the risk of age related cataracts by 6%.
Sources: Nuts and seeds, vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower oil and leafy vegetables.
- Zinc: Zinc helps in absorption of Vitamin A. It is seen to be present in large amounts in ocular tissues particularly the retinal, choroid and lens area. It is also required for functioning of various ocular metalloenzymes.
Zinc is also a good antioxidant and is a part of many enzymatic reactions that help in neutralizing the free radicals.
Sources: Sea foods, Beef, oyster, pork, black eyed peas, peanuts and fortified foods.
- Omega-3 and Omega-6: The constituents of Omega-3 i.e EPA and DHA are required for maintenance of eye health. It is also required for maintaining the wetness of eyes. According to a study published in 2009, a combination of omega 3 and omega 6 were effective in prevention of retinal damage in rats. In patients suffering from dry eye syndrome, application of omega 3 and omega 6 helped in reducing inflammation and provided significant relief according to a 2008 study.
Omega3 sources: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oils, nuts and seeds.
Omega 6 sources: Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Soyabean oil.