Older Americans Lack Key Nutrients to Support Eye Health


Although research has shown a link between specific nutrients and maintaining good vision and eye health, a recently published review by Rasmussen from Lesley University, Massachusetts, and Johnson from Tufts University, Massachusetts (Clin Interv Aging 2013), shows that many Americans >50 years of age do not consume enough of those key nutrients to support good vision. The review looked specifically at vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and the omega-3 fatty acids—eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data showed that most Americans’ intake of these nutrients falls well below recommended levels. In a survey conducted by the Ocular Nutrition Society, 70% of adults from 45 to 65 years of age ranked vision as the most important of the 5 senses, but <50% of the respondents understood the link between nutrients and ocular health and vision. Regarding specific nutrients, nearly 60% of respondents were unaware of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids; 66% were unaware of the benefits of lutein; and 89% were unaware of the role of zeaxanthin in maintaining eye health.

While supplements can help bridge the nutritional gap for men and women whose diets do not include these key nutrients, the best way for patients to obtain easily absorbable amounts of these substances is by including foods rich in these nutrients in their diets: citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and broccoli for vitamin C; vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts and legumes for vitamin E; oysters, beef and other meats, nuts and legumes for zinc; kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, corn, colored bell peppers, goji berries and Brussels sprouts for lutein and zeaxanthin; fish oils from cold-water fish, such as salmon or tuna for omega-3s; and carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach for beta carotene. These are foods adults can easily add to make their diets more “eye friendly.”