Vitamins for Eyesight Your eyes are complex organs that need many different vitamins and nutrients to function properly. Common conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts, can impact your eyes.
The 9 Most Important Vitamins for Eye Health
Though a variety of different factors causes these conditions, nutrition seems to have an influence on all of them — at least in part.
Here are 9 key vitamins and nutrients that help maintain eye health.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outside covering of your eye. Vitamins for Eyesight
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. Vitamins for Eyesight
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) (3Trusted ).
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).
Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to xerophthalmia, a serious condition that can result in blindness. In some studies, high amounts of vitamin A intake were associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
2. 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 (7Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
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.
In addition, some studies suggest that diets high in vitamin E helps prevent age-related cataracts. However, more research is needed as some studies show no association between vitamin E and this condition (10Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
Vitamin E, an antioxidant, may help protect your eyes against damaging free radicals. It’s used in a daily supplement called AREDS as a potential treatment for AMD, and high amounts in your diet may be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts.
Like vitamin E, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that may protect your eyes against damaging free radicals (11). Vitamins for Eyesight
Vitamin C and several other nutrients are used in the supplement NATURAL CARE PACK (FECP), which may benefit those with AMD. When taken daily, one study suggests that AREDS may reduce the risk of this condition progressing by 25% (9Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
In addition, vitamin C is required to make collagen, a protein that provides structure to your eye, particularly in the cornea and sclera (12Trusted Source).
Several observational studies suggest that vitamin C may help lower your risk of developing cataracts, a condition that causes your eye to become cloudy and impairs vision (13Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
Another study found that regular vitamin C supplements may reduce the risk of cataracts by 45% (15Trusted Source).
Citrus and tropical fruits, bell peppers, broccoli and kale contain particularly high amounts of vitamin C, making them great options to boost your daily intake.
Vitamin C forms collagen, a protein that provides structure to your eyes. Observational studies suggest that this vitamin may protect against cataracts and help prevent the progression of AMD.
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4. Vitamins B6, B9 and B12
Researchers have also studied several B vitamins for their impact on eye health, particularly vitamins B6, B9 and B12. Vitamins for Eyesight
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 (16Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
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 (17Trusted Source).
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. Vitamins for Eyesight
The combination of vitamins B6, B9 and B12 may help reduce your risk of developing AMD by lowering your homocysteine levels.
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). Vitamins for Eyesight
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, 20Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
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 (21Trusted Source).
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. Vitamins for Eyesight
As an antioxidant, riboflavin may protect against damaging free radicals in your eyes. Diets high in riboflavin have been associated with a reduced risk of developing cataracts.
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). Vitamins for Eyesight
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 (24Trusted Source).
In addition, an animal study showed that high doses of niacin supplements were effective in preventing glaucoma (25Trusted Source).
Overall, more research on the potential link between niacin and glaucoma is needed. Vitamins for Eyesight
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 (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
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. Vitamins for Eyesight
Studies suggest that niacin may prevent the development of glaucoma, but supplements should be used with caution.
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7. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are part of the carotenoid family, a group of beneficial compounds synthesized by plants. Vitamins for Eyesight
Both of these carotenoids can be found in the macula and retina of your eyes, where they help filter potentially harmful blue light, thus protecting your eyes from damage (28Trusted Source).
Several studies suggest that these plant compounds may prevent cataracts and prevent or slow the progression of AMD (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
A randomized, controlled study found potential benefits of lutein for people with cataracts. Over two years, those taking supplements containing 15 mg of lutein three times per week experienced improvements in vision (31Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
Recommended daily intakes and safe supplemental doses have not been established for these compounds. However, up to 20 mg of lutein per day for 6 months has been used in studies without adverse effects.
Nonetheless, supplements may not be necessary. As little as 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin may yield benefits, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables naturally provides this amount. Cooked spinach, kale and collard greens are particularly high in these carotenoids (32). Vitamins for Eyesight
Lutein and zeaxanthin are beneficial plant compounds that may help prevent AMD and cataracts. No recommended daily intakes have been established, but a diet high in fruits and vegetables can provide plenty of these nutrients.
7. Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. The cell membranes of your retina contain a high concentration of DHA, a particular type of omega-3 (33Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
Besides helping form the cells of your eye, omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties which may play a role in the prevention of diabetic retinopathy (DR).
A review of 31 studies suggested that diets high in oily fish — such as the traditional Mediterranean diet — may protect against DR. Although these findings need to be corroborated with more research, they imply that fatty acids may be responsible (34Trusted Source). Vitamins for Eyesight
Omega-3 fats may also benefit individuals with dry eye disease by helping them produce more tears. With this condition, a lack of tears causes dryness, discomfort and occasional blurry vision (33Trusted
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