Nutrition for Your Eyes

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Dr. S.S. Gill

In our series on Eye Health, Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill talks to us about how nutrition plays a part in eye health.

The question many people ask Ophthalmologists is whether nutrition and vitamins play a part in maintaining healthy eyes. The answer in a nutshell is, “Yes, your eyes reflect what you eat!” Good nutrition is important for eye health and of course for general health too. Good nutrition helps to nourish our eyes, protect against eye infections and allows the eyes to function properly.

Diets Rich in Vitamins

A typical example of how nutrition plays a vital part in the health of our eyes is a childhood condition leading to blindness called xerophthalmia. This condition is due to a lack of vitamin A in the diet and is commonly seen in developing countries.

Certain foods are essential for good eye health. They maintain healthy cells in the eye which is so essential for proper function. Amongst the more important ones are the anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins can be found in many different sources of fruit and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, carrots and green leafy vegetables.

Oxidative Stress

Our bodies constantly react with the oxygen in our environment. Due to this activity, humans produce tiny molecules called free radicals. These free radicals affect our cells, sometimes damaging them. This is called oxidative stress and it plays a role in how macular degeneration develops.

Carotenoids – Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Studies have shown that two types of carotenoids called Lutein and Zeaxanthin are essential for eye health. In the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) of 4,757 patients, it showed that those who had a higher intake of Lutein with Zeaxanthin in their diet had less incidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

These carotenoids keep the eyes safe from oxidative stress especially from the exposure to blue light (high energy photons). Lutein has also been shown to improve retinal sensitivity. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found naturally in vegetables, fruits, yellow peppers, mango, bilberries, spinach and broccoli.

A Balanced Diet

A good balanced diet that includes sufficient fresh fruits and vegetables is therefore essential. However, if you feel that your diet lacks adequate vitamins and minerals, you might want to consider taking a supplement for general and eye health when:

* your diet does not include enough fresh fruit and vegetables .

* it is hard to obtain or prepare fresh fruit and vegetables.

* you have been told to take a vitamin supplement by your eye doctor.

Key Points to Remember

In summary, to maintain good eye health, you should:

* Eat a good, balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

* Take multivitamin supplements with carotenoids if needed.

* Stop smoking – cigarette smoke contains large amounts of free radicals.

* Protect your eyes from sunlight. Use good quality sunglasses. Ones that filter off harmful ultraviolet rays and lenses that are polarised are best.

* Get your eyes tested every 2 years if you are generally healthy but more often if you have medical problems like diabetes mellitus.

For more information, contact Gill Eye Specialist Centre at 05-5455582, email: gilleyecentre@dr.com or visit www.fatimah.com.my.