Topic of the Month
Key nutrients in the prevention of eye diseases
1 December 2014
Optimizing vision throughout the lifespan is a public health priority worldwide, not only because of its central importance to quality of life, but also because of the health care costs associated with the loss of vision in an aging population. Oxidative stress is thought to be a key pathogenic mechanism of compromised vision, and the antioxidant properties of some nutrients show the capacity to modulate disease conditions linked to oxidative stress. Considerable evidence has accumulated showing that vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene and zinc help support vision and may be protective against the development or progression of some common – especially age-related – eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. In addition, increased intakes of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin and the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – all concentrated in the eye – have been associated consistently with lower likelihood of sight-threatening conditions. There has also been some promising research with B vitamins in age-related eye diseases and with vitamin A and DHA in the rare disease retinitis pigmentosa (see also Key nutrients for healthy vision).