For many, vitamins are a part of a healthy daily routine. Now, research from a 10-year clinical trial has found that a blend of antioxidants and vitamins may improve the eye health of those with age-related visual conditions.
The vitamin blend combines vitamins A, C and E, zinc, copper and beta-carotene, which together contain the antioxidants researchers feel are necessary for optimal eye health. While the mix has shown useful for improving the symptoms of a range of eye conditions, researchers say that further studies are needed to determine whether the regimen can ward off serious conditions like macular degeneration.
The National Eye Institute study included over 3,600 patients to determine the effects of antioxidants and vitamins on age-related eye diseases and conditions. At the study's onset, all participants had some form of eye condition, ranging from mild to severe, and were each given varying doses of antioxidants and vitamins to see if their conditions would improve with targeted treatments.
What doses are appropriate?
Researchers found that the optimal blend included 500 milligrams (mgs) of vitamin C, 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E, 25,000 IU of beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), 80 mgs of zinc and 2 mgs of copper. It should be noted that copper, while included, does not considerably benefit eye health. Rather, high zinc intake can lead to copper deficiency, so researchers added copper to the mix to offset the nutrient loss.
The study concluded that high doses of antioxidants and zinc could reduce patients' risk of developing advanced eye conditions by as much as 19 percent. For patients who had no advanced eye condition at the time of the study's onset, researchers noted that the formula was significantly less effective.
Foods for good vision?
Vitamin and mineral supplements may improve eye health, but there are also several foods considered good for vision.
Research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) mentions that fewer Americans are developing macular degeneration, possibly as a result of the foods they eat. These healthier diets include leafy greens, nuts, cruciferous vegetables and fish.
Walnuts contain high amounts of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to improve cardiovascular health. In small amounts, omega-3s can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid, another fatty acid that is used by the eye. Walnuts are also high in vitamin E, another key component to healthy vision and the prevention of age-related vision loss.
Berries are also helpful in improving eye health, offering high antioxidant levels as well as vitamin C. Blueberries and blackberries also fight inflammation and improve blood flow with anthocyanins, the ingredient that gives them their purplish color. By reducing inflammation and giving blood flow a boost, these berries also help deliver more oxygen to the eyes.
Avocados contain lutein, a carotenoid that's commonly found in colorful fruits and vegetables and protects cells from damage. According to AARP, avocados also help prevent cataracts. They contain vitamins A, B6, C and E, and are among the best sources of heart-healthy fats available.
Steven Pratt, M.D., author of "SuperHealth," calls spinach "the king of the green leafies," closely followed by kale, turnip, collard greens and Swiss chard. Spinach is particularly rich in lutein and has been shown to ward off damage to the macula, which is located at the center of the retina.