Antioxidants for Healthy Eyes    3-2005

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The antioxidants A, C, E, lutein, and zeaxanthin help protect the retina against the damaging effects of oxidative damage caused by the sun, pollutants and other environmental factors. They are on your side in the battle against free radicals that can attack your body. You can harness their power by eating the right foods and taking a complete multivitamin containing essential vitamins and minerals. To get the best antioxidant edge for your eyes, check out these top nutritional performers.


Beta Carotene. This powerful antioxidant, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, helps maintain healthy eyes and research suggests it is one of the nutrients associated with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the disease that blurs central vision needed for straight-ahead activities such as reading and driving. Vitamin A deficiency can also lead to night blindness and other eye disorders. Good food sources of beta-carotene include orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots and winter squash.


Vitamin C. Here's another powerful antioxidant that plays a role in keeping eye tissues healthy. A recent study at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston suggested an association between women who took vitamin C supplements for at least 10 years and a decrease in premature cataracts. Vitamin C, along with other nutrients may help reduce the risk of ARMD. Good food sources include citrus juices and fruits, berries, tomatoes, potatoes, green and red peppers, broccoli, and spinach.


Vitamin E. This vitamin is well-known for its fight against cell-damaging free radicals and is also suggest in studies, along with other antioxidant nutrients, to help reduce the risk of cataracts and ARMD. Food sources include vegetable oils, wheat germ, whole-grain products, avocados, and nuts.


Lutein and zeaxanthin. Researchers speculate that people who consume a diet rich in these carotenoids may be less likely to develop cataracts or ARMD. Food sources include spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, corn, and eggs.


Mighty Vitamins and Minerals


Zinc. Research indicates that the mineral zinc, along with the other antioxidants noted previously, may slow the progression of ARMD. Food sources include meat, fish, poultry, liver, eggs, oysters, wheat germ, and whole-grain products.


Niacin. This B-vitamin has also been suggested in clinical studies to help reduce the risk of cataracts. Good food sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, organ meats, brewer's yeast, peanuts, and peanut butter.


A Powerful Combination

A study by The National Institutes of Health suggests that supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper plays a role in reducing the risk and slowing the progression of ARMD and cataracts, but a doctor's supervision is important to determine proper and safe levels of these nutrients.


Smart Lifestyle Strategies

To help protect your eyes, follow these other important eye-health guidelines.

Get regular eye exams. Early detection of problems may prevent vision loss. If you're over the age of 65, get an exam every 1 to 2 years. If you have a family history of eye problems, have your eyes examined more frequently, perhaps annually. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you.


Wear shades. Guard against harmful ultraviolet rays by wearing sunglasses. The sun's rays are at their strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so if you have to be outdoors during this peak time, don the shades. Choose a wraparound style that offers 100 percent UV ray block for the most protection.


Don't smoke. Smoking produces free radicals, which can damage your eyes. Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop macular degeneration than are nonsmokers. Ask your doctor for help to stop smoking.


Eat right. A healthy balanced diet with a multivitamin/mineral will help ensure adequate intake of the antioxidant nutrients necessary for eye health.