Nutrition supplements and the eye


Purpose A review of the role of vitamins, minerals, carotenoids and essential fatty acids in relation to eye health. The mode of action may be directly on the eye or by promoting bodily health on which the eye depends.

Results The lens and retina suffer oxidative damage and the anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E are implicated as protective. Studies in man give indifferent support to the role of nutrition in the development of cataract. In the elderly, vitamin intake may be inadequate, so that a vitamin supplement may be reasonable. Zinc has a role in retinal metabolism and may be beneficial in macular degeneration. Selenium has an anti-oxidant role. Other minerals including copper have a less defined role. Carotenoids are concentrated at the macula and have an anti-oxidant role. A reduced risk, of macular degeneration is found in relation to a high serum level. The essential fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is useful in Sjogren's syndrome and may help in other dry eye conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in retinal development and have a role in preventing cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion All persons should be encouraged to maintain healthy nutrition. Middle-aged and elderly patients may benefit from a supplement. An intake in excess of the recommended daily intake may be beneficial, but this is not proven. Further clinical trials are indicated to define the advisability of vitamin, mineral and other supplements. Dosages for recommended intake and for supplements are given.


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Correspondence to Nicholas A Phelps Brown.

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Brown, N., Bron, A., Harding, J. et al. Nutrition supplements and the eye. Eye 12, 127–133 (1998).

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  • Nutrition
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Carotenoids
  • Essential fatty acids
  • Cataract
  • Retinal degeneration

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