Diet Rich in Nutrients Helps Promote a Lifetime of Healthy Vision

ST. LOUIS, MO, March 1, 2013 -Everyone's heard the saying "you are what you eat." Well, it's true for your eyes as well as for your heart, bones and teeth. During March's Save Your Vision Month, the American Optometric Association (AOA) reminds Americans that caring for eyes includes looking carefully at what you eat.

Six nutrients - antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc - have been identified as helping to protect eye sight and promote eye health.  Since the body doesn't make these nutrients naturally, it's important that they are incorporated into a daily diet and, in some cases, supplemented with eye vitamins.

"More than two decades of extensive research have provided a better understanding of how diet and nutrition can not only keep our eyes healthy, but reduce the risk of certain eye diseases as we age," said Ronald L. Hopping, O.D., MPH, president of the AOA. "From dry eye to age-related eye diseases, research shows that nutrition plays a critical role in maintaining the health of our eyes."

Key Eye Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables

The AOA recommends eating a diet with a variety of foods loaded with key nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, for maintaining and improving eye health.

The AOA's American Eye-Q® survey showed that nearly half of all Americans (49 percent) still believe carrots are the best food for eye health.  While carrots do contain nutritional value by supplying beta-carotene, which is essential for night vision, spinach and other dark, leafy greens are the healthiest foods for eyes because they naturally contain large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.

The AOA recommends the following foods which contain key nutrients for eye health:

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin: To help reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), eat one cup of colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges and tangerines four times a week.
  • Essential fatty acids: Studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids such as flax oil or fleshy fish like tuna, salmon, or herring, whole grain foods, lean meats and eggs may help protect against AMD and dry eye.
  • Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers and tomatoes, can help minimize the risk of cataracts and AMD.
  • Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, such as safflower or corn oil, almonds, pecans, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds are powerful antioxidants that can slow the progression of AMD and cataract formation.
  • Zinc: A deficiency of zinc can result in poor night vision and lead to cataracts; therefore, consuming red meat, poultry, liver, shellfish, milk, baked beans, and whole grains on a daily basis is important.

"Nutrition is a component of health for the entire body, including the eyes," said Dr. Hopping. "I frequently encourage my patients to make small dietary changes in order to experience a big impact with vision."

For a list of quick and simple recipes that promote healthy eye sight and vision, visit: http://www.aoa.org/x11857.xml.

To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on nutrition, please visit www.aoa.org.

About the survey:

The seventh annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 9 - 16, 2012, using an online methodology, PSB conducted 1,009 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level)

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 39,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors.  Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit www.aoa.org.