Food for thought on improving eyesight

Post on 7th November 2016

A good well-balanced diet is beneficial for our general health and certain nutrients have a particular part to play when it comes to our eye health.

But what of the benefits of dietary supplements?

Dr Michael Mosley was a sceptic, but after taking the pills in a 90-day trial for the BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor programme he found his vision had noticeably improved.

The experiment was prompted by work at the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland, at the Waterford Institute of Technology, that suggested that by boosting the intake of certain nutrients you can make your eyesight better.

Their research centres around the part of the eye called the macula, the spot near the centre of the retina which is responsible for our central vision. It is coated with special protective pigments, also known as carotenoids, which are largely derived from the food we eat.

The researchers were particularly interested in the effects of the pigments lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin in protecting the retina’s delicate macula area and improving eyesight.

For the TV programme, Mosley was given supplements containing concentrations of certain compounds found in coloured plants. These were extracted from marigolds, but two of the key chemicals – lutein and zeaxanthin – are also found in a range of things we eat more commonly.

As he was not a fan of supplements – believing a good diet is generally sufficient – he was pretty surprised that there was an improvement in his vision which was detectable in eye tests.

No one would suggest that this result from one individual is proof, but it’s certainly food for thought. It will be interesting to see what future discoveries are made in how best to source the three macular pigments, lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin.

Supplements or not, some researchers believe that diet can be enough if we eat the right things. For eye health it’s advisable to include foods containing antioxidants like lutein to your diet.

Munching on broad leaf greens such as kale and spinach and brightly coloured fruit and vegetables like corn, carrots, orange sweet peppers and oranges is recommended. Oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, plus broccoli and eggs are also good for eye health.

If you would like any advice on looking after your vision, please call in at your nearest branch of Scrivens Opticians & Hearing Care.