As you get older, your risk of developing an eye disease increases. In certain cases, the risk of getting these conditions is linked to genetics – your diet and lifestyle may also play a role.
Some common age-related eye diseases include:
- Cataracts or clouded eyes. Age-related cataracts are one of the main causes of vision impairment and blindness worldwide.
- Diabetic retinopathy, which is linked to diabetes, is a major cause of visual impairment and blindness. A person with diabetes may develop retinopathy if high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in your retina.
- Macular degeneration involves damage to the macula, the central part of your retina. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness in developed countries.
Boost your intake of these eight nutrients to maintain eye function and lower your risk of developing age-related degenerative diseases.
Traces of an omega-6 fatty acid known as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) can be found in the modern diet. Experts believe that unlike other omega-6 fatty acids, GLA possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Evening primrose oil and starflower oil are the best sources of GLA. Some studies have found that the intake of evening primrose oil helps relieve the symptoms of dry eye disease.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two yellow carotenoid antioxidants categorized as macular pigment, meaning these antioxidants are mostly found in the macula, a layer of light-sensitive cells found on the back wall of your eyeball.
Both lutein and zeaxanthin function as a natural sunblock, and it is believed that they help protect your eyes against harmful blue light.
These antioxidants often occur together in foods such as:
- Egg yolks
- Green peas
- Swiss chard
Egg yolks are one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin because of their fat content. It is better to consume carotenoid-rich foods with fat so they can be absorbed better.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for your eye health.
DHA, most of which can be found in the retina, helps maintain proper eye function. DHA is also needed for brain and eye development during infancy. DHA deficiency can cause vision problems, particularly in children.
Research suggests that taking omega-3 supplements may offer health benefits for patients with dry eye disease and promote the formation of tear fluid.
Oily fish and omega-3 supplements derived from fish or microalgae are the best dietary sources of EPA and DHA.
You need vitamin A to maintain your eyes’ photoreceptors, or light-sensing cells.
Vitamin A deficiency is often cited as one of the most common causes of blindness around the globe. A person with vitamin A deficiency may experience symptoms like dry eyes, night blindness, or more severe conditions, depending on the severity of the deficiency. (Related: Eating for your eyes: Carrots deliver nutrients that preserve vision.)
Animal-derived foods like dairy products, egg yolks, and liver are the best dietary sources of vitamin A. Fortunately, you can also get vitamin A from antioxidant plant compounds like provitamin A carotenoids, which can be found in certain fruits and vegetables.
Provitamin A carotenoids supply at least 30 percent of the average person’s vitamin A requirements. The most efficient carotenoid is beta carotene, which can be found in foods like:
- Sweet potatoes
Compared to other organs, your eyes require high amounts of antioxidants like vitamin C.
While there are only a small number of controlled studies on vitamin C’s role in eye health, the concentration of the vitamin C is greater in the aqueous humor of the eye (the liquid that fills the outermost part of the eye) than in other body fluids.
The levels of vitamin C in the aqueous humor correspond directly to your dietary intake. Data from observational studies have found that those with cataracts usually have a low antioxidant level and that taking vitamin C supplements lowers the risk of developing cataracts.
Some of the best sources of vitamin C include many fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, oranges and other citrus fruits, guavas, and kale.
Vitamin E, which is naturally found in certain foods, refers to a group of fat-soluble antioxidants that protect fatty acids from oxidative damage.
The retina is full of fatty acids, and increasing your intake of foods that contain vitamin E boosts your eye health. Foods like almonds, sunflower seeds, and vegetable oils (e.g., flaxseed oil) are the best dietary sources of vitamin E.
The human eye has a high concentration of zinc. This mineral is a part of various essential enzymes like superoxide dismutase that acts as an antioxidant.
Zinc may be involved in the formation of visual pigments in the retina, which suggests that zinc deficiency can result in night blindness. Food sources of zinc include meat, oysters, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds.
Having good lifestyle habits, like exercising regularly and following a balanced diet can help lower disease risk and prevent eye conditions. Consume foods rich in the eight nutrients detailed above to boost your eye health.