National Eye Health Week – Why is nutrition important for eye health?

Posted: Wednesday 26 September 2018

It’s not surprising that people are confused about the link between nutrition and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Despite some evidence that taking specific supplements can slow the progress of AMD, National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines concluded that the evidence wasn’t strong enough to recommend them. 

The largest studies into these supplements are the two Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS) conducted in the US; the final AREDS formula was found to lead to a reduction in the progression of intermediate AMD to advanced AMD. There are other studies that have looked at vitamins separately that have not found the same effects as the AREDS studies, which is how NICE reached their current conclusion. 

These high levels of vitamins and minerals can be hard to achieve from diet alone and often can be taken more easily in supplement form, however the cost for these supplements can be high. To add to the confusion, there are many nutritional supplements aimed at those with AMD currently on the market, with varying degrees of dosage and some without any research basis at all - many do not contain the AREDS formulation.

The highest percentage of lutein and zeaxanthin are found in egg yolks, maize, spinach, collard greens and kale, but the amounts to reach the daily intake often need to be large (e.g. two large handfuls of kale every day). Two eggs per day can contain the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin required. As long as they can be tolerated by patients and are cooked well, they can be a good alternative to leafy greens.

Patients looking for advice on nutrition specific to their own eye health should talk to their optometrist, who can help them make an informed decision based on their own needs.

- Dr Rebekah Stevens PhD BSc (Hons) MCOptom FHEAl, Programme Leader in Optometry - University of the West of England