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    Americans over 50 lack key nutrients to support eye health

    Rochester, NY—Many Americans aged more than 50 years are not consuming enough specific nutrients in their daily diet to support their eye health. This was the conclusion from a recent review published in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging.

    Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, a nutrition researcher at Tufts University, and Helen Rasmussen, PhD, RD, an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University, focused on the antioxidants vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosahexaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as important nutrients that can potentially help protect eye health as people age.

    “Many adults don’t think about their eye health or sight until it’s too late to reverse the damage their eyes may have sustained,” Dr. Johnson said. “Our review shows that incorporating proper nutrition into the diet can help adults protect their eye health. It’s a small step that can go a long way.”

    The review, funded by a grant by Bausch + Lomb, highlighted data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which indicates that most Americans fall below the optimal intake of these specific nutrients.

    Further, according to a recent survey conducted by the Ocular Nutrition Society, 78% of adults, aged 45 to 65 years, rank vision as the most important of their five senses. However, less than half are aware of important nutrients that may play a key role in eye health.

    Specifically, survey respondents were unaware of the specific nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids (almost 60%), lutein (66%) and zeaxanthin (nearly 90%). Diet is the best way to get these specific nutrients, but for adults who don’t get the nutrients needed through diet alone, nutritional supplementation is warranted.

    “Many Americans don’t consume enough of these eye healthy foods in their daily diets, even though diet is the best way to receive these nutrients,” said Michael J. Cooney, MD, a retina specialist at the Vitreous Retina Macula Consultants, New York. “

    While the research found that many Americans are not getting optimal amounts of the eight identified nutrients that may support eye health through their diet, there are many common foods that contain these vital nutrients and antioxidants. Registered dietician Keri Gans recommends incorporating several of these foods into the daily diet to increase the levels of these vital eye nutrients.

    “There are several foods adults can easily add to make their diets more ‘eye-friendly,’” Gans said. “For example, make a salad with kale or spinach, which are both packed with lutein and zeaxanthin. Or, add berries to yogurt in the morning for extra vitamin C.”

    Other foods to look for include:

    • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, and broccoli;

    • Vitamin E: vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts, and legumes;

    • Zinc: oysters, beef and other meats, nuts, legumes, and dairy from plant sources of zinc;

    • Lutein and zeaxanthin: kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, corn, colored bell peppers, goji berries, and brussel sprouts;

    • Omega-3 fatty acids: fish oils from cold water fish like salmon, or tuna;

    • Beta-carotene: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, and spinach.

    For more articles in this issue of Ophthalmology Times eReport, click here.


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