Many patients ask about how to best maintain and optimize our eye health as we age. Basic recommendations for maintaining good overall health hold true for maintaining healthy eyes: Eating a balanced diet (avoiding processed foods and added sugars), getting daily exercise and 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night.
There are many vitamin supplements on the market that aim to improve our eye health. Here are 3 eye health supplements that I recommend:
- Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in dark leafy vegetables and orange/yellow/red fruits and veggies. They help form the macular pigment in the retina, acting as antioxidants and blue-light screening compounds. Higher levels of macular pigment can help to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It can also improve visual performance through better contrast sensitivity, better dark adaptation, and reduced glare disability. While lutein supplements are easy to find in most drugstores, taking a supplement with all three of these carotenoids is significantly more effective than lutein on its own, and these triple-carotenoid supplements are harder to find. I recommend MacuHealth - a high-quality supplement containing 10mg Lutein, 10mg Meso-Zeaxanthin, and 2mg Zeaxanthin.
- Omega 3 oils are made up of EPA, DHA and ALA – 3 essential fatty acids that support eye health, and have benefits in brain and heart health. Omega 3 supplements can lower the risk of dry eye and improve dry eye symptoms. The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega 3’s can help prevent eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. EPA and DHA are most commonly found in fish, whereas ALA is often found in plant oils like flax, hemp or chia seeds. ALA must first be converted into DHA and EPA by the body for it to be used, and it is an inefficient source of Omega 3. Recommended Omega-3 oil supplements contain 1000-2000mg DHA+EPA.
- AREDS 2 Vitamin Supplements for Macular Degeneration (AMD). This is a mix of carotenoids (lutein + zeaxanthin) plus vitamin A, C, E and zinc, in a formulation used in a large-scale study on macular degeneration. These supplements have been found to slow the progression of macular degeneration by 25-30% in those patients with moderate to severe AMD. The study did NOT show a significant effect on patients with mild AMD or no AMD. I recommend AREDS vitamins to all of my patients with moderate or severe AMD. If you have mild AMD or have a family history of AMD and want to take preventative supplement, I recommend the triple-carotenoid supplements.
The quality of health supplements in Canada is not well-regulated, and claims of efficacy are not always reliable. At Armstrong Optometry, we have researched and sourced good quality products in each category, available for purchase at the clinic.