Nutrients for Healthy Vision   

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 (driving distances).
However, a constant close focus tends to cause more eye strain.

Eye disorders as you get older
Normal VisionNormal Vision
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 cataract
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 (AMD)
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 factor.

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 oxygen.

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 age-related disorders.
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.

Happy reading,

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