This article originally appeared in Good Health Lifestyles Magazine
Vision health is one of the most common concerns as we age. That includes the frustration of lessening low-light vision—often called “night vision.” What to do? Turn to these proven eye-health nutrients to help preserve the remarkable gift of good vision, day and night.
As you read through these nutrients, take note of how they nourish, protect, and strengthen the eyes. In fact, the combination of vitamin A, zinc, French grape seed extract, lutein, and zeaxanthin all work together to keep the eyes healthy and strong. Their synergistic nature to support overall eye health can’t be overlooked.
Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. Research shows that vitamin A can improve tear quality and help with dry eyes. This eye-health powerhouse enhances the strength and integrity of the lenses and the ability to see in low light. When thinking about vitamin A, however, also consider zinc. Study after study shows that zinc and vitamin A need each other. This is because vitamin A can only get the job done with zinc. This was shown in one human trial involving pregnant women who were experiencing night blindness and also a deficiency in both zinc and vitamin A. By the end of the study, the women taking both vitamin A and zinc supplements were four times more likely to have their night vision restored. Zinc alone or vitamin A alone, however, didn’t yield the same results. Look for an eye-formula supplement with 1,500 mcg of vitamin A as retinyl acetate.
Zinc is often referred to as a micromineral or trace element because you need it in small amounts. But those small amounts are essential for eye health. The macula, the part of the retina that’s responsible for clear central vision, contains high zinc levels. Along with vitamin A, zinc creates a pigment called melanin, which is useful for protecting the eye. Zinc deficiency can lead to more difficulty seeing when driving at night. There is also evidence that, when used synergistically with antioxidant vitamins, zinc can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). What’s more, a deficiency can lead to cataract formation. Look for an eye formula that contains 30 mg of zinc from zinc bisglycinate chelate, a form more easily used by the body.
A major pigment in the macular region of the retina (along with zeaxanthin), lutein filters light, especially blue light, that can cause oxidative damage to the structure of the eye. Research shows that this carotenoid is also a key factor in preventing, delaying, or treating eye diseases related to aging. But it’s also important for anyone interested in improving vision at any age. One study looked at lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation in healthy young adults. The result? Macular-pigment optical density and visual-processing speed increased by an average of 20 percent. Faster visual-processing speed is associated with many quality-of-life indicators, such as sports performance, safety while driving, and reading speed. Since lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally part of the retina, they also protect against the damage of blue light, something we have high exposure to in this tech-savvy world. Look for a formula with 10 mg of lutein from marigold flower extract.
Along with lutein, zeaxanthin is one of the primary pigments found in the retina’s macular region. Located in the center of the eye, it protects the eyes from bright light. Lutein and zeaxanthin have been noted for their potential to prevent the progression of AMD. The journal Ophthalmology published a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of patients with early AMD. After 48 weeks, the researchers found that using these two nutrients improved visual function. The improvement included contrast sensitivity, an important factor in good vision. With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reporting a fatality rate for older Americans 17 times higher than for the 25-to-65 age group—it’s clear that what’s commonly called “night blindness” is a real problem. It happens because the eyes recover more slowly from light glare, which occurs during driving at night or on a wet highway. As a result, the older eye cannot see contrasts as clearly in low light. But a supplemental source of zeaxanthin can help restore night vision. It’s so effective that one double-blind, placebo-controlled study found supplementing with zeaxanthin and lutein improved glare-recovery time and contrast sensitivity, increased the ability to complete visual tasks in low light, and reduced night-driving crash risk in just six months. Seek out a formula that contains 500 mcg of zeaxanthin from marigold flower extract.
Grape Seed Extract
Your eyes require more antioxidants than any other organ in the body. Enter grape seed extract (GSE), a powerful source of antioxidants gleaned from the seeds of wine grapes. GSE can influence the strength and integrity of the blood vessels in the eye. GSE also contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called oligomeric proanthocyanidins, or OPCs. Studies show that GSE protects the delicate nerve cells in the retina known as the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which are located near the inner surface of the eye’s retina. The loss of RGCs is a hallmark of the sight-robbing disease glaucoma—and once glaucoma causes RGCs to die, the cells can never be replaced. However, findings in the journal Molecular Vision have shown that the OPCs in grape seeds protect epithelial cells in the eye’s lens, including RGCs, from free-radical damage. But be aware that all grape seed extract supplements aren’t equally effective. To get the protection you need, check supplement labels for a tannin-free French grape seed extract called VX1. This ingredient is clinically studied and standardized to contain low–molecular weight OPCs to ensure better absorption in the body. The typical dose is 100 mg daily.
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