Nutrients for Healthy Vision
Vision is the most important
of our five senses. Light enters the eye and
interacts with the specialized nerve cells in the
retina - rods and cones (photo receptors) - to
create a nerve impulse, and the nerve impulse must
then be transmitted to the visual area of the brain.
Our eyes are used for most of our waking hours, so
they naturally get tired. Eye strain is caused by a
number of reasons and not just overuse, such as
weakness of the ciliary/eye muscle, improper
lighting but can occur regardless of whether our
focus is close (for example computer screen) or far
However, a constant close focus tends to cause more
Eye disorders as you get older
When aging individuals are asked what they fear
most, one of the most frequently cited concerns is
going blind or having a major loss of vision. The
two major eye diseases for which we all are at risk
as we age are cataracts and macular degeneration.
What is cataract?
A scene as it might be viewed by a person with
The lens, which focuses light rays into the retina,
is supposed to be transparent. When the lenses
become opaque, the opaque areas are called
cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of
impaired vision and blindness worldwide, affecting
up to 40% of people over 75.
What is macular degeneration?
A scene as it might be viewed
by a person with agerelated macular degeneration
Think of your retina as the film in your camera
(non-digital). In the retina rods and cones
(photoreceptor cells) convert the image into
electrical impulses, which travel to your brain via
the optic nerve.
That is how our eye or rather the brain sees image.
The most sensitive part of the retina is the macula.
There, millions of cones are tightly packed to
create a high resolution image that produce the
sharp central vision. It is the macula that can
deteriorate with age. Because the macula alone is
affected, central vision is lost (though total
blindness is avoided).
Macular degeneration causes no pain and affects
one-third of adults over the age of 75 and is the
principal cause of visual disability in people over
65 years of age. Age is by far the greatest risk
Can nutritional supplements help?
Research shows that certain nutrients are found to
be of importance for good vision, both in terms of
protecting the eye from damage as well as in the
actual process of vision. Hence the health of the
eye depends on a rich supply of nutrients and also
The origin of many eye disorders can also be
attributed to free radicals caused by overexposure
to sunlight. In a nutshell, a free radical is a
highly reactive molecule that can damage the eye
tissues causing cataract and macular degeneration.
What is lutein?
Lutein is a carotenoid nutrient found in dark green,
leafy vegetables like spinach, as well as in other
foods such as corn and egg yolk.
Of the 600 or so carotenoids present in nature, only
20 or so carotenoids are detected in our blood. Of
those, nature has chosen only lutein and zeaxanthin
to be present in the eyes. They are found in all
parts of the eye, but occur in concentrations nearly
1000 times greater in the macula section of the
retina than in any other tissues in the body.
Lutein and zeaxanthin give the macula its striking
yellow color and are often referred to as the
"macular pigments". The high concentration of lutein
in the macula gave scientists their first hint that
nature has a purpose for this plant pigment to play
an important role in the health of the macula.
Lutein found in the macula region of the eye, helps
shield the eyes from damaging light, particularly
the most damaging blue light from the visible light
spectrum. Lutein absorbs blue light and this is
critical for the protection of the lens, retina and
macular portions of the eye.
Lutein is a powerful tat-soluble anti-oxidant and
protect the lens, retina and macula of the eyes
against free radical damage due to their exposure to
sunrays, computer screens and other harmful forms of
light. The free radical damage can eventually lead
to common eye disorders such as cataract and the
more devastating macular degeneration.
Unfortunately, our bodies cannot manufacture lutein
and as we grow older, concentrations of lutein in
the eyes decline - leaving the eyes susceptible to
Fortunately, taking lutein supplement can help
increase its concentration in the lens, retina and
macula and helps prevent and even partially reverse
some of the age-related disorders.
Numerous clinical studies in humans have shown that
lutein is not only deposited in the macula but also
in the lens of the eye.
Research suggests that, once there, lutein helps to
reduce the risk of developing age-related macular
degeneration (AMD) and may also pay a role in
reducing the risk of developing cataract.
How does bilberry help?
Bilberry contains potent antioxidants that protect
and improve microcirculation, that is, the
circulation of blood through the capillaries.
These antioxidant pigments called anthocyanosides or
anthocyanins protect cells in the circulatory
system, keeping them flexible and provide better
blood flow, delivering nutrients and oxygen to
capillary-rich organs such as the retina of the eye.
Researchers have also found that bilberry affects
enzymes responsible for energy production of the
eye, which is especially important for good vision
under poor light conditions, including night vision.
What type of supplements should I look for?
There are numerous supplements for eye health. It is
important to ensure that the product includes lutein
- and has at least 10mg of lutein per day's serving
to maintain proper eye health.
Generally, when shopping for herbal product(s), one
should preferably choose products that contain
standardized extract(s) of herbs as they can
guarantee the consistency of the product.