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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


800th Post: Nutrients for the Eyes

By Michael McBurney

Days will continue to shorten for those living in the northern hemisphere for another few weeks. For most, this means commuting in the dark. Shadows are long for much of the day. If there is any precipitation, lights glare from wet surfaces. For many, these conditions make it difficult to see properly.

Weikel and colleagues review the importance of nutrition in maintaining vision and preventing cataracts. Because the lens is primarily liquid, water-soluble antioxidants, like vitamin C which is found at concentrations 50 times that in blood, are important. With aging and the development of cataracts, studies have observed a decline in antioxidant status of the eye. Higher concentrations of vitamin C are associated with lower levels of oxidative stress, measured as thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS). The review gives an excellent summary of the importance of vitamin E, vitamin A/retinol, carotenoids (β-carotene, α-carotene, lycopene, cryptoxanthin), lutein, zeaxanthin,  B vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, folate, and vitamin B12), carbohydrate, dietary fat, and protein intake in maintaining eye health and risk of cataract.

Christen and colleagues reported that long-term use of multivitamins by men participating in the Physicians Health Study II significantly reduced the risk of cataracts, especially in older participants.

Be smart. Eat a balanced diet, don’t smoke, and wear UV filtering sunglasses to help maintain your eyes. In the meantime, those of us in the north have no choice but to cope with darkness until the equinox. Counting the days.

Main citation

Weikel KA, Garber C, Baburins A, Taylor A. Nutritional modulation of cataract. 2013 Nutr Rev doi:10.1111/nure.12077

Other citations

Tarwadi KV, Chiplonkar SA, Agte V. Dietary and nutritional biomarkers of lens degeneration, oxidative stress and micronutrient inadequacies in Indian cataract patients. 2008 Clin Nutr doi:10.1016/j.cinu.2008.01.014

Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Manson JE, Macfadyen J, Bubes V, Schvartz M, Buring JE, Sesso HD, Michael Gaziano J. A Multivitamin Supplement and Cataract and Age-Related Macular Degeneration in a Randomized Trial of Male Physicians. 2013  Ophthalmol doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2013.09.038