Although many may not know it, our country is facing an eye care epidemic. Since smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become commonplace in the average American home, our digital screen time has increased exponentially. (In fact, a recent Statistical survey reveals that nearly half of respondents spend about five to six hours on their phone a day.)
Even if you have 20/20 vision without wearing any type of corrective lenses, the ability to read road signs isn’t the only factor in how well you take care of your eyes. It turns out that excessive screen use can lead to tired, dry and tired eyes, which impacts our ability to concentrate, eye function and even longevity of vision later in life.
Fortunately, there are concrete steps we can take to boost eye nutrition and promote vision longevity, including adding a comprehensive eye health supplement to our daily routine.* Here, we’ve outlined the supporting nutrients of vision to watch and identified the most innovative eye health supplements available on the market today.
Vitamins that promote eye health.
There are a number of nutrients that support eye health and longevity, and most of them aren’t vitamins at all. In fact, there are a myriad of bioactives that support eye function and visual performance, including essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, key carotenoids and other phytonutrients.
“Diet is a key lifestyle factor that can have long-term effects on eye health. Specifically, the American Optometric Association, as well as scientists in academia, have clearly recognized the role of key nutrients in supporting eye health and visual performance,” says Deshanie Rai, Ph.D., FACNvice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at OmniActive Health Technologies.
“These include vitamins A, C, D and E; zinc and copper; the macular carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin; and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, it is important to ensure that we are consuming adequate levels of these nutrients in our daily diet,” notes Rai.
Optometrist and author of What You Need to Know About Foods and Supplements for Optimal Eye Care, Jeffrey Anshel, DO, FAAOadds another type of macular carotenoid to the list: meso-zeaxanthin.
“Lutein is converted into another form [of zeaxanthin] called meso-zeaxanthin. The tricky part is that meso-zeaxanthin is not part of the normal diet – it is found in shrimp shells, fish skin, and turtle shells,” says Anshel, explaining the need for lutein ( and zeaxanthin) through diet and supplements to ensure you are getting enough of these essential macular carotenoids.
But the carotenoids essential for vision are not limited to lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin. According to Anshel, astaxanthin is also essential for eye health, as it affects ocular blood flow and promotes overall longevity, especially in our modern digital world. screens all day,” he shares, noting astaxanthin’s ability to support reset and recovery.*
Karen Hecht, Ph.D., head of scientific affairs at AstaReal, adds that astaxanthin has also been a vital part of eye health research conducted in Asia and Europe. The problem? The American diet does not support an adequate intake of this eye-essential carotenoid.
“The average American does not consume the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, which contribute 90% of dietary carotenoid intake. Astaxanthin is unique among carotenoids in that it is not found in fruits and vegetables. Instead, astaxanthin is found primarily in wild salmon,” says Hecht. “Based on the average consumption of salmon among Americans, it is estimated that the diet alone provides 11 milligrams of astaxanthin annually.”
With all of these essential eye nutrients and a serious deficiency in the average American diet, the need for a comprehensive, daily eye supplement with a targeted formulation is clear.
Experts say yes and add that they are not only useful, but essential given the modern stressors our eyes are subjected to.
“The eyes are exposed to physiological and environmental factors that trigger the production of free radicals. That’s why dietary antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, have long been studied by the National Eye Institute,” says Hecht. “Important things to look for are bioactive ingredients that can cross the blood-retinal barrier and are supported by double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that have demonstrated eye health benefits in healthy participants.”
The thing is, like all dietary supplements, finding an effective, high-quality eye supplement can be difficult (to say the least). Here are the main criteria we used when researching the best eye supplements to include in this list:
The take-out sale.
If you are pregnant, nursing, or taking medication, consult your doctor before beginning a supplementation routine. It is always best to consult with a health care provider to determine which supplements are right for you.