10 Best Supplements For Eye Health 2024

You’ve probably heard that eating carrots are good for your eyes. You may have also noticed adverts for eye health dietary supplements. Can vitamins and minerals help your eyesight and eye health? Continue reading to discover more about eye health and vitamins.

vision with AMD

Can Eye Supplements Improve Vision?

Many claims are made regarding the beneficial effects of supplements on vision and eye health, but few research studies back them up. Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) are an exception. These are large studies conducted by the National Eye Institute.

The studies focused on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, two conditions that impact millions of people worldwide.

AREDS2 Supplements

AREDS and AREDS2 looked at the effects of high doses of several antioxidants taken together for several years. The final recommendations from AREDS2 were:
- Vitamin C 500 mg
- Vitamin E 400 IU
- Lutein 10 mg
- Zeaxanthin 2 mg
- Zinc 80 mg
- Copper* 2 mg
*to prevent copper deficiency caused by zinc

This supplement formulation is available in capsule form and is usually taken twice daily.

Results - Participants in the AREDS2 study took one of four supplement formulations that had been identified as potentially beneficial in the AREDS study. Each participant took the supplement daily for five years.

In study participants, the risk of AMD and serious vision loss was reduced by 25 percent over six years. In people with AMD, the condition was slowed only in people with moderate AMD. Supplements were not effective for people with mild or very advanced stages.

Additionally, supplements used in the study did not prevent AMD or restore vision loss.
Lutein and zeaxanthin supplements taken as part of the AREDS2 formulation were seen to reduce the need for cataract surgery by 32 percent in people who initially had low dietary levels of these carotenoids.

The studies were promising and found that there are some benefits to certain supplements, but they won’t have beneficial effects in everyone. More research is needed to better understand the connection between supplements and eye health.

Best Eye Supplements for Eye Health

The following supplements, including the antioxidants found in AREDS2 capsules, have been shown to be beneficial for some people.

1. Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin

Best eye supplements for retina

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow carotenoid antioxidants or known as macular pigments. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants and in your retina. Supplementing these pigments helps increase their density in your retina. They also absorb high-energy blue and ultraviolet light that can damage your eyes.

While there are about 850 known carotenoids, most are not found in the human body (Nutrients 2020) and only lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin cross the blood-retina barrier to form macular pigment (Stringham 2019). Your retina is an extension of your brain, where lutein also accumulates throughout the human lifespan, hinting at its importance for both vision and cognitive function.

In fact, if you have dementia, you're likely deficient in lutein, which crosses the blood-brain barrier and has a protective, anti-inflammatory effect (Eric Berg 2017). While lutein is available in supplement form, it's also found in a wide variety of foods, including dark leafy greens, avocados and egg yolks.

2. Vitamin A

Best eye supplements for dry eyes

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outside covering of your eye.

This vitamin is also a component of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that allows you to see in low light conditions (1).

Vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries, but if unaddressed can lead to a serious condition called xerophthalmia.

Xerophthalmia is a progressive eye disease which begins with night blindness. If vitamin A deficiency continues, your tear ducts and eyes can dry out. Eventually, your cornea softens, resulting in irreversible blindness (1, 2).

Vitamin A may also help protect against other eye afflictions. Some studies suggest that diets high in vitamin A may be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (3, 4, 5, 6).

For general eye health, vitamin-A-rich foods are recommended over supplements. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source, as are leafy green vegetables, pumpkins and bell peppers (1).

3. Zinc

Also found naturally in your eyes, zinc is a powerful antioxidant that protects against cell damage. Zinc is the primary mineral in the AREDS2 formulation. When taking zinc, copper absorption is lessened. It’s recommended that zinc be combined with copper supplements.

4. Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Vitamin B1 is essential for the health of your eyes. There’s evidence that vitamin B1, taken with other vitamins, may reduce your risk of getting cataracts, but more research is needed.
Known as one of the “anti-stress” B vitamins, vitamin B1 reduces inflammation.

Initial research also indicates that it may be an effective for treating uveitis, an inflammatory eye condition that can lead to blindness.

Vitamins B2, B6, B9 and B12

Researchers have also studied several B vitamins for their impact on eye health, particularly vitamins B6, B9 and B12.

This combination of vitamins can lower levels of homocysteine, a protein in your body that may be associated with inflammation and an increased risk of developing AMD.

A clinical study in women demonstrated a 34% reduced risk of developing AMD while taking 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12 along with vitamins B6 and B9.

However, more research is needed to confirm the benefits of these supplements. In addition, it’s unclear if increasing your intake of vitamin-B-rich foods would have similar effects.

Another B vitamin studied in relation to eye health is riboflavin (vitamin B2). As an antioxidant, riboflavin has the potential to reduce oxidative stress in your body, including your eyes .

In particular, scientists are studying riboflavin’s potential to prevent cataracts, as prolonged riboflavin deficiency may lead to this condition. Interestingly, many individuals with cataracts also are deficient in this antioxidant.

One study found a 31–51% decreased risk of cataracts development when participants’ diets included 1.6–2.2 mg of riboflavin per day, compared to .08 mg per day.

Health authorities recommend consuming 1.1–1.3 mg of riboflavin per day. It’s usually easy to achieve this amount, as many foods are high in riboflavin. Some examples include oats, milk, yogurt, beef and fortified cereals.

Vitamin B3 (niacin)

The main function of niacin (vitamin B3) in your body is to help convert food into energy. It can also act as an antioxidant (22).

Recently, studies have suggested that niacin may play a role in the prevention of glaucoma, a condition in which the optic nerve of your eye becomes damaged (23).

For example, an observational study on the nutrient consumption of Korean adults and their risk for glaucoma found an association between low dietary intake of niacin and this condition (24).

In addition, an animal study showed that high doses of niacin supplements were effective in preventing glaucoma (25).

Overall, more research on the potential link between niacin and glaucoma is needed.

Supplements should be used with caution. When consumed in high amounts of 1.5–5 grams per day, niacin may pose adverse effects to the eyes, including blurred vision, macular damage and inflammation of the cornea (26, 27).

However, there is no evidence that consuming foods naturally high in niacin has any adverse effects. Some food sources include beef, poultry, fish, mushrooms, peanuts and legumes.

5. Melatonin

Melatonin, well-known for its role in regulating your body’s circadian rhythm, is useful for far more than a good night’s sleep. This hormone was recently heralded for its role in eye health, and it may be an important compound for warding off age-related declines in vision.

Glaucoma, for instance, is among the leading causes of blindness, affecting 70 million people throughout the world. While its underlying causes are unknown, mechanical stress caused by elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is known to damage retinal ganglion cells.

It’s been suggested that glaucoma is, in fact, a neurodegenerative disease, and damage to retinal ganglion cells affects not only vision but also circadian rhythms and sleep. People with glaucoma may have disrupted circadian rhythms compared to their peers,(R) and neuroprotective strategies that prevent damage to retinal ganglion cells could help with both this and glaucoma. In this regard, melatonin checks all the boxes.

Melatonin Improves Intra-ocular Pressure

In a study published in the Journal of Pineal Research, a team of scientists investigated the effects of melatonin supplements on patients with glaucoma.(R) Subjects took melatonin daily at 10:30 p.m. for 90 days, experiencing a number of benefits, including:(R)
  • Increased stability of systemic circadian rhythm via improved phase alignment and alignment with intraocular pressure
  • Decreased intraocular pressure
  • Improved function of retinal ganglion cells in those with advanced glaucoma
  • Improvements to sleep and mood, particularly in those with advanced glaucoma
Previous research by the team found that melatonin was beneficial for disrupted systemic circadian rhythms and the cardiovascular system. They explained:

“Being a principal chemical factor for sensing environmental light signaling and synchronizing peripheral clocks, melatonin serves both input and output of the circadian system. Melatonin is regarded as a promising substance to ameliorate complex glaucoma-associated conditions of compromised well-being (i.e., disrupted circadian rhythms, altered sleep and mood).

… Combined, these results provide evidence for melatonin efficiency in restoring disrupted circadian rhythms in glaucoma, with different effects of melatonin on systemic vs. local rhythms, suggesting that a personalized strategy for melatonin administration may further refine its benefits.”

There Are Melatonin Receptors in Your Eyes

Melatonin is often described as a pineal hormone (Estrany 2007), but only 5% of your body’s melatonin — which is also a potent anticancer agent — is produced in your pineal gland. The other 95% is produced inside your mitochondria — provided you get proper sun exposure, which is intricately involved in melatonin production.(Joe Cohen 2022)

Meanwhile, melatonin receptors exist in several areas of the eyes, including the retina, lens and cornea, “which suggests that cells in these tissues may be targets for melatonin action,” researchers wrote in Pharmacology & Therapeutics.(Estrany 2007)

This hints at melatonin’s importance for regulating eye processes, particularly when “pressure homeostasis” is involved. Writing in Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, scientists with the University Complutense of Madrid, Spain, explained:(Alkozi 2020)

“Glaucoma, the most prevalent eye disease, also known as the silent thief of vision, is a multifactorial pathology that is associated to age and, often, to intraocular hypertension (IOP). Indeed IOP is the only modifiable risk factor and as such medications are available to control it; however, novel medications are sought to minimize undesirable side effects.

Melatonin and analogues decrease IOP in both normotensive and hypertensive eyes. Melatonin activates its cognate membrane receptors, MT1 and MT2, which are present in numerous ocular tissues, including the aqueous-humor-producing ciliary processes.

Melatonin receptors belong to the superfamily of G-protein-coupled receptors and their activation would lead to different signaling pathways depending on the tissue … the current work highlights the important role of melatonin and its analogues in the healthy and in the glaucomatous eyes, with special attention to the control of intraocular pressure.”

Further, the effect of melatonin on intraocular pressure has been known for decades. In 1988, researchers with Oregon Health Sciences University exposed subjects to bright light, in order to suppress serum melatonin levels, and then supplementing with melatonin to gauge its effect on intraocular pressure.10 A significant connection was found:(Samples 1988)

“Our data suggests that during the period of melatonin’s greatest levels in the serum, IOP is lowest. All subjects had maximum pressures form 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and most subjects had minimums from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. In experiment one, bright light suppression of melatonin secretion attenuated the early morning fall IOP. This was statistically significant at suggesting that melatonin is involved in lowering early morning IOP.

In experiment one, there was only partial suppression of melatonin production with bright light and consequently there was no significant difference in IOP between subjects exposed to dim light and bright light. However, administering 200 micrograms of melatonin orally caused a significant decrease in IOP. Intraocular pressure remained low for approximately four hours after the last dose.”

Melatonin for Vision Health

Melatonin appears to have far-reaching effects on eye health, even beyond glaucoma. Cataracts, for instance, are associated with oxidative stress, and research suggests melatonin counteracts oxidative damage in the lens and may be a “potential therapeutic agent for cataract prevention/management.”(Lledo 2022)

Melatonin may also be useful for neurovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is characterized by abnormal angiogenesis in the retina and leads to severe vision loss in more than 90% of those affected. The compound inhibits endothelial progenitor cell angiogenesis and neovascular AMD.(Cells 2023) According to a study published in the journal Cells:

“The promotion or inhibition of angiogenesis is part of the homeostatic balance, with positive and negative effects outside the optimum range. Melatonin influences this balance, with evidence from several clinical research investigations demonstrating that this hormone has antiangiogenic effects in cancer and chronic ocular diseases.”

Animal studies also suggest that melatonin protects the retina in dry AMD, while anecdotal reports suggest “favorable” experiences among adults with AMD who supplemented with melatonin (Nutrients 2022). One study suggested melatonin in a dose of 3 to 20 milligrams at bedtime may be useful for controlling dry AMD.

There’s a mitochondrial component as well, as impaired mitochondrial biogenesis is found in human retinal cells affected by AMD — and melatonin is a potential treatment. Researchers explained in Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets:(Mehrzadi 2020)

“During aging, insufficient free radical scavenger systems, impairment of DNA repair mechanisms and reduction of mitochondrial degradation and turnover contribute to the massive accumulation of ROS [reactive oxygen species] disrupting mitochondrial function. Impaired mitochondrial function leads to the decline in the autophagic capacity and induction of inflammation and apoptosis in human RPE cells affected by AMD.”

Importantly, they noted, “The effect of melatonin on mitochondrial function results in the reduction of oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis in the retina; these findings demonstrate that melatonin has the potential to prevent and treat AMD.”

6. Vitamin C

Several large studies show that vitamin C reduces the risk of getting some types of cataracts. Two of these studies also found that a combination of vitamins C and E supplements reduced risk for cataracts and slowed the progression of cataracts.

7. Vitamin E

Many eye conditions are believed to be associated with oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body (7, 8).

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells — including your eye cells — from damage by free radicals, which are harmful, unstable molecules.

One seven-year study in 3,640 people with AMD showed that taking 400 IU of vitamin E and several other nutrients in a daily supplement called AREDS reduced the risk of progressing to advanced stages by 25% (9).

In addition, some studies suggest that diets high in vitamin E may help prevent age-related cataracts. However, more research is needed as some studies show no association between vitamin E and this condition (10).

Nonetheless, a diet that includes adequate vitamin E is recommended to maintain proper eye health. Some vitamin-E-rich options include nuts, seeds and cooking oils. Salmon, avocado and leafy green vegetables are also good sources.

8. Omega-3 fatty acids

The diet of most Americans doesn’t contain enough omega-3 fatty acids, the main source of which is fish. Photoreceptors cells in your retina contain a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acid. It’s believed that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, helps in the development of retinal cells. It’s also thought to have a role in reducing inflammation and helping cells of the retina and the cornea heal and regenerate after damage due to light exposure and aging.

A number of studies indicate that people who consume more of two omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), were less likely to have AMD. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with dry eye syndrome and retinopathy, a disease that causes progressive damage to the retina. Research has also shown that infants whose formula contains DHA develop better vision than infants not given DHA.

9. Astaxanthin

Many studies have also investigated astaxanthin's effect on eye health. Some of the early work was done in France, where they confirmed that astaxanthin can cross the blood-retinal barrier, thereby providing potent anti-inflammatory protection to your eye and retina. Studies suggest it may help protect against a variety of eye-related problems, including:
  • Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis)
  • Retinal arterial occlusion and venous occlusion
  • Cystoid macular edema
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
Importantly, astaxanthin appears to be a potent way to both prevent and treat ARMD, which is the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. As previously reported by Life Extension Magazine:

"The human retina naturally contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, molecules closely related to astaxanthin. Supplementation with all three carotenoids (astaxanthin 4 mg/day, lutein 10 mg/day, zeaxanthin 1 mg/day) has been shown to improve visual acuity and contrast detection in people with early age-related macular degeneration.

In laboratory studies, astaxanthin supplementation protects retinal cells against oxidative stress and significantly reduces the area of destructive new blood vessel growth on retinas, a hallmark of advanced macular degeneration.15,16 Studies of patients with age-related macular degeneration reveal significant improvements in retinal electrical outputs following supplementation with astaxanthin and other carotenoids.

Glaucoma, an increase in the pressure of fluid inside the eyeball, eventually results in retinal cell death from oxidant damage and loss of blood flow. Astaxanthin restores retinal parameters to normal in eyes with experimentally-induced glaucoma."

Since astaxanthin is far more powerful an antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin, many researchers believe it to be the most effective antioxidant ever discovered for eye health. (Ref)

Specifically, astaxanthin has been shown to ameliorate or prevent light-induced damage, photoreceptor cell damage, ganglion cell damage and damage to the neurons of the inner retinal layers. Astaxanthin also helps maintain appropriate eye pressure levels that are already within the normal range, and supports your eyes' energy levels and visual acuity.

10. Resveratrol & Quercetin

A population-based control study has found that flavonoids may help to decrease the risk of age-related cataracts. Resveratrol and quercetin are two potent flavonoids that may help to prevent cataracts. According to research, resveratrol may delay cataract formation and may have anti-cataracts effects on those with diabetes (RefRefRef).

Do you need supplements?

Diet should always be your primary source of vitamins and minerals. However, the National Eye Institute advises that the high doses found in AREDS2 can’t be obtained from diet alone.

In addition to diet and supplements, there are some other things you can do at home to promote eye health:
- Use a humidifier in your home if your house is dry. You may only need to use it seasonally, or you may need to use it year round, depending on the climate where you live.
- Drink plenty of water. Although recommendations vary by weight, adults should drink, roughly, between - 1.5 liters (6 ¼ cups) and 2 liters (8 1/3 cups) of fluid daily.
- Keep your eyes moist with artificial tears.
- Change your furnace or air conditioner filters regularly.
- Avoid environments with dusty or dirty air.
- Use cold compresses, cucumbers, or dampened and cooled green or black tea bags on your eyes.

Computer Screen, LED Screen and Mobile Devices

One of the main concerns of our modern society is too much screen time. Don’t get me wrong, I am a tech enthusiast and technology has its benefits. However, too much screen time can be damaging. It is important that you protect your eyes and only use technology when necessary.

Sunlight has a variety of lights, including blue, indigo, violet, red, orange, yellow, and green, that are actually different wavelengths and energy that turn into the white light we see. Red light has less energy and longer wavelengths. Blue light, on the other hand, has more energy and shorter wavelengths and is more harmful to your eyes.

Different sources of blue light include computer monitors, tablet screens, smartphones, fluorescent light, LED light, and flat screen LED televisions. Spending too much time on the screens of your devices is incredibly tiring for your eyes. However, research has shown that blue light may also have long-term negative effects, including premature aging of your eyes (ref, ref).

Protecting your eyes is critical for cataract prevention. It is important that you wear blue light-blocking glasses when you are using your electronics at night or under artificial lighting.

When should you see your doctor?

Consult your ophthalmologist before taking AREDS2. An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in eye health. Your doctor will be able to determine if the supplements will be effective, given the status of your eye health.

Because the high dosages in AREDS2 can interact with other medications and shouldn’t be taken by people with certain health conditions, it’s important to talk with your primary care doctor, too. 

Can I use supplements to improve my eye health?

Your eyes and vision are affected by many factors, including genetics and age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet that contains antioxidant-rich foods can contribute significantly to the health of your eyes.

Tips for eye health

- There are many things you can do to benefit your eye health.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels in the eyes and can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other sight problems.
- Protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. Wear sunglasses when you’re outdoors and avoid staring directly into bright lights.
- Maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle.
- After age 60, get a dilated eye exam each year.
- Make sure your diet contains plenty of green leafy vegetables, spinach, corn, oranges, eggs, yellow carrots. These foods contain high levels of nutrients, including those found in the AREDS2 formulation.

Online Buying Guide

Buy on Amazon - AREDS 2 Eye Vitamin & Mineral Supplement


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