Topic of the Month
1 November 2014
The eye is rich in nutrients and other dietary components that support and complement each other. Some nutrients are necessary for the basic physical structure of the eye, some for the physiology of sight, and others for protection. Nutrients within the visual system can be thought of as a hierarchy representing a complex of interacting factors: while vitamin A (retinol) is essential for the formation of visual pigments, the antioxidants vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin help to protect the lens and retina against light-induced oxidative damage, and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) enriches neural tissues including the photoreceptor cells. These nutrients are known to be important for visual development early in life, starting from the fetus through infancy to early childhood. Visual acuity gradually improves until about age four, when it is comparable to that of adults. For adults a sufficient intake of these nutrients is needed throughout the lifespan to maintain visual performance, such as the ability to adapt to low light, recover from intense light and distinguish objects from their background.