Best Eye Supplements 2022

You’ve probably heard that eating carrots are good for your eyes. You may have also noticed adverts for eye health dietary supplements. Can vitamins and minerals help your eyesight and eye health? Continue reading to discover more about eye health and vitamins.

age related macular degeneration

Can Eye Supplements Improve Vision?

Many claims are made regarding the beneficial effects of supplements on vision and eye health, but few research studies back them up. Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) are an exception. These are large studies conducted by the National Eye Institute.

The studies focused on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, two conditions that impact millions of people worldwide.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. It affects more than 10 million people. It’s mainly associated with aging, but some forms of macular degeneration affect younger people as well.

AMD occurs when there’s deterioration of light-sensitive cells in the macula area of the retina. This is the part of the eye responsible for:

  • recording what we see and sending the information to our brains
  • seeing fine detail
  • focusing

 

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. It may impair your ability to see well enough to perform daily tasks and can become worse over time.

Cataracts are extremely common, particularly among older adults. 

 

Recommended supplements

AREDS and AREDS2 looked at the effects of high doses of several antioxidants taken together for several years. The final recommendations from AREDS2 were:

 Vitamin C 500 mg
 Vitamin E 400 IU
 Lutein  10 mg
 Zeaxanthin  2 mg
 Zinc 80 mg 
 Copper* 2 mg
 

*to prevent copper deficiency caused by zinc

This supplement formulation is available in capsule form and is usually taken twice daily.

 

Results

Participants in the AREDS2 study took one of four supplement formulations that had been identified as potentially beneficial in the AREDS study. Each participant took the supplement daily for five years.

In study participants, the risk of AMD and serious vision loss was reduced by 25 percent over six years. In people with AMD, the condition was slowed only in people with moderate AMD. Supplements were not effective for people with mild or very advanced stages.

Additionally, supplements used in the study did not prevent AMD or restore vision loss.

Lutein and zeaxanthin supplements taken as part of the AREDS2 formulation were seen to reduce the need for cataract surgery by 32 percent in people who initially had low dietary levels of these carotenoids.
The studies were promising and found that there are some benefits to certain supplements, but they won’t have beneficial effects in everyone. More research is needed to better understand the connection between supplements and eye health.

What supplements may help my eye health?

Best eye supplements for macular degeneration.

The following supplements, including the antioxidants found in AREDS2 capsules, have been shown to be beneficial for some people.

1. Lutein and zeaxanthin

Best eye supplements for retina.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow carotenoid antioxidants or known as macular pigments. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants and in your retina. Supplementing these pigments helps increase their density in your retina. They also absorb high-energy blue and ultraviolet light that can damage your eyes.

Cataracts, Cataracts:  Causes, Symptoms

2. Zinc

Also found naturally in your eyes, zinc is a powerful antioxidant that protects against cell damage. Zinc is the primary mineral in the AREDS2 formulation. When taking zinc, copper absorption is lessened. It’s recommended that zinc be combined with copper supplements.

Read more: Zinc 101 | Here’s What You Need to Know

3. Vitamin A

Best eye supplements for dry eyes

 

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outside covering of your eye.

 

This vitamin is also a component of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that allows you to see in low light conditions (1).

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries, but if unaddressed can lead to a serious condition called xerophthalmia.

 

Xerophthalmia is a progressive eye disease which begins with night blindness. If vitamin A deficiency continues, your tear ducts and eyes can dry out. Eventually, your cornea softens, resulting in irreversible blindness (1, 2).

 

Vitamin A may also help protect against other eye afflictions. Some studies suggest that diets high in vitamin A may be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (3, 4, 5, 6).

 

For general eye health, vitamin-A-rich foods are recommended over supplements. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source, as are leafy green vegetables, pumpkins and bell peppers (1).

4. Vitamin B

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Vitamin B1 is essential for the health of your eyes. There’s evidence that vitamin B1, taken with other vitamins, may reduce your risk of getting cataracts, but more research is needed.

 

Known as one of the “anti-stress” B vitamins, vitamin B1 reduces inflammation.

Initial research also indicates that it may be an effective for treating uveitis, an inflammatory eye condition that can lead to blindness.

Vitamins B2, B6, B9 and B12

Researchers have also studied several B vitamins for their impact on eye health, particularly vitamins B6, B9 and B12.

This combination of vitamins can lower levels of homocysteine, a protein in your body that may be associated with inflammation and an increased risk of developing AMD (16).

 

A clinical study in women demonstrated a 34% reduced risk of developing AMD while taking 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 along with vitamins B6 and B9 (17).

However, more research is needed to confirm the benefits of these supplements. In addition, it’s unclear if increasing your intake of vitamin-B-rich foods would have similar effects.

 

Another B vitamin studied in relation to eye health is riboflavin (vitamin B2). As an antioxidant, riboflavin has the potential to reduce oxidative stress in your body, including your eyes (18).

 

In particular, scientists are studying riboflavin’s potential to prevent cataracts, as prolonged riboflavin deficiency may lead to this condition. Interestingly, many individuals with cataracts also are deficient in this antioxidant (19, 20).

 

One study found a 31–51% decreased risk of cataracts development when participants’ diets included 1.6–2.2 mg of riboflavin per day, compared to .08 mg per day (21).

 

Health authorities recommend consuming 1.1–1.3 mg of riboflavin per day. It’s usually easy to achieve this amount, as many foods are high in riboflavin. Some examples include oats, milk, yogurt, beef and fortified cereals (19).

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

The main function of niacin (vitamin B3) in your body is to help convert food into energy. It can also act as an antioxidant (22).

Recently, studies have suggested that niacin may play a role in the prevention of glaucoma, a condition in which the optic nerve of your eye becomes damaged (23).

For example, an observational study on the nutrient consumption of Korean adults and their risk for glaucoma found an association between low dietary intake of niacin and this condition (24).

In addition, an animal study showed that high doses of niacin supplements were effective in preventing glaucoma (25).

Overall, more research on the potential link between niacin and glaucoma is needed.

Supplements should be used with caution. When consumed in high amounts of 1.5–5 grams per day, niacin may pose adverse effects to the eyes, including blurred vision, macular damage and inflammation of the cornea (26, 27).

However, there is no evidence that consuming foods naturally high in niacin has any adverse effects. Some food sources include beef, poultry, fish, mushrooms, peanuts and legumes.

5. Vitamin C

Several large studies show that vitamin C reduces the risk of getting some types of cataracts. Two of these studies also found that a combination of vitamins C and E supplements reduced risk for cataracts and slowed the progression of cataracts.

 

Read more: Vitamin C 101 | Here’s What You Need to Know

6. Vitamin E

Many eye conditions are believed to be associated with oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body (7, 8).

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells — including your eye cells — from damage by free radicals, which are harmful, unstable molecules.

One seven-year study in 3,640 people with AMD showed that taking 400 IU of vitamin E and several other nutrients in a daily supplement called AREDS reduced the risk of progressing to advanced stages by 25% (9).

In addition, some studies suggest that diets high in vitamin E may help prevent age-related cataracts. However, more research is needed as some studies show no association between vitamin E and this condition (10).

Nonetheless, a diet that includes adequate vitamin E is recommended to maintain proper eye health. Some vitamin-E-rich options include nuts, seeds and cooking oils. Salmon, avocado and leafy green vegetables are also good sources.

7. Omega-3 fatty acids

The diet of most Americans doesn’t contain enough omega-3 fatty acids, the main source of which is fish. Photoreceptors cells in your retina contain a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acid. It’s believed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, helps in the development of retinal cells. It’s also thought to have a role in reducing inflammation and helping cells of the retina and the cornea heal and regenerate after damage due to light exposure and aging.

A number of studies indicate that people who consume more of two omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), were less likely to have AMD. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with dry eye syndrome and retinopathy, a disease that causes progressive damage to the retina. Research has also shown that infants whose formula contains DHA develop better vision than infants not given DHA.

8. Resveratrol & Quercetin

A population-based control study has found that flavonoids may help to decrease the risk of age-related cataracts. Resveratrol and quercetin are two potent flavonoids that may help to prevent cataracts. According to research, resveratrol may delay cataract formation and may have anti-cataracts effects on those with diabetes (Ref, Ref, Ref).

Do you need supplements?

Diet should always be your primary source of vitamins and minerals. However, the National Eye Institute advises that the high doses found in AREDS2 can’t be obtained from diet alone.

In addition to diet and supplements, there are some other things you can do at home to promote eye health:
  • Use a humidifier in your home if your house is dry. You may only need to use it seasonally, or you may need to use it year round, depending on the climate where you live.
  • Drink plenty of water. Although recommendations vary by weight, adults should drink, roughly, between 1.5 liters (6 ¼ cups) and 2 liters (8 1/3 cups) of fluid daily.
  • Keep your eyes moist with artificial tears.
  • Change your furnace or air conditioner filters regularly.
  • Avoid environments with dusty or dirty air.
  • Use cold compresses, cucumbers, or dampened and cooled green or black tea bags on your eyes. 

Computer Screen, LED Screen and Mobile Devices

One of the main concerns of our modern society is too much screen time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a tech enthusiast and technology has its benefits. However, too much screen time can be damaging. It is important that you protect your eyes and only use technology when necessary.

Sunlight has a variety of lights, including blue, indigo, violet, red, orange, yellow, and green, that are actually different wavelengths and energy that turn into the white light we see. Red light has less energy and longer wavelengths. Blue light, on the other hand, has more energy and shorter wavelengths and is more harmful to your eyes.

Different sources of blue light include computer monitors, tablet screens, smartphones, fluorescent light, LED light, and flat screen LED televisions. Spending too much time on the screens of your devices is incredibly tiring for your eyes. However, research has shown that blue light may also have long-term negative effects, including premature aging of your eyes (ref, ref).
 
Protecting your eyes is critical for cataract prevention. It is important that you wear blue light blocking glasses when you are using your electronics at night or under artificial lighting.

blue light filter

When should you see your doctor?

Consult your ophthalmologist before taking AREDS2. An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in eye health. Your doctor will be able to determine if the supplements will be effective, given the status of your eye health.

Because the high dosages in AREDS2 can interact with other medications and shouldn’t be taken by people with certain health conditions, it’s important to talk with your primary care doctor, too. To find eye specialists in Malaysia, check out Best Eye Specialists Malaysia.

Can I use supplements to improve my eye health?

Your eyes and vision are affected by many factors, including genetics and age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet that contains antioxidant-rich foods can contribute significantly to the health of your eyes.

Tips for eye health

There are many things you can do to benefit your eye health.

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels in the eyes and can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other sight problems.
  • Protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. Wear sunglasses when you’re outdoors and avoid staring directly into bright lights.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle.
  • After age 60, get a dilated eye exam each year.
  • Make sure your diet contains plenty of green leafy vegetables, spinach, corn, oranges, eggs, yellow carrots. These foods contain high levels of nutrients, including those found in the AREDS2 formulation.