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Which Nutrients Best Support Healthy Vision?

At a Glance: It takes a combination of lenses, muscles, photoreceptors, nerves, brain, and nutrients to visualize the world around us.

You think about the health of your heart, brain, and bones, but what about your eyes? After our brains, our eyes are the most complex organ in our body. Unfortunately, as we age, a natural decline in visual acuity is likely to occur.

One of the most important reasons for this loss of visual acuity over time is damage from environmental factors. Additionally, except during sleep, eyes are constantly exposed to environmental factors like sunlight, dryness, and air pollution.

Over the past couple decades, there have been significant advances in research related to nutrition and eye health. Ophthalmologists recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and adding an advanced eye health supplement to your daily routine to help maintain long-term eye health.

Why the Eyes Are Especially Prone to Damage

The eye, especially the retina and even more so the macula, is particularly prone to photo- and oxidative-damage. This damage can occur from natural sunlight, artificial light from light bulbs or computer screens, exposure to environmental factors, and oxidants produced as a result of the high metabolic rate of the eye. Over time these insults add up and there is a general decline in visual acuity as we age.

Of particular concern are the environmental factors that come in contact with the eye and the damaging rays that enter the eye. Just like high-intensity light (UV radiation) from the sun can burn and damage our skin, these same rays can also damage structures of the eye. If you think about it, it is an interesting dilemma the eye has to balance. On one hand, it needs to let light in so we can see. But on the other hand, it has to minimize how much light is let in to help reduce damage to the eye.

To help the eye combat the harmful effects of environmental factors and light it has developed an interesting mechanism of concentrating specific nutrients to help minimize this damage. Some of these nutrients include flavonoids, vitamin C, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Flavonoids and vitamin C help promote healthy blood vessels to ensure nutrient delivery. Vitamin C and zinc work together to provide antioxidant protection. Zinc additionally helps to transport vitamin A, an essential nutrient for vision, into the eye. The central portion of the macula—the portion of the retina where most light is focused—contains a dense yellow pigment called macular pigment. Macular pigment helps protect the sensitive receptors in the macula from the potentially harmful effects of high-intensity, shorter wavelengths of light (also referred to as blue light). The nutrients that make up this macular pigment are the carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Carotenoids make up a very large family of over 750 naturally occurring plant pigments. They are the compounds in fruits and vegetables that tend to give them their red, orange, and yellow color. What is so interesting is that with all the different carotenoids found in nature, the eye has developed the ability to specifically and selectively concentrate lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye, specific neurons involved in vision, and certain regions of the brain. Together with these other nutrients, the eye is well equipped to cope with the daily stresses.

Because our bodies cannot synthesize lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, zinc, and flavonoids, they must be obtained from the diet or a nutritional supplement. Research has shown that levels of these eye-protecting nutrients correlate to the amounts we consume. Levels of these nutrients begin to increase in as short as a few days and continue to increase as long as they are being consumed. Unfortunately, once consumption of these nutrients stops, levels begin to decline as rapidly as they increased. Therefore, it is important to consistently eat a healthy diet and take a nutritional supplement that supports eye health.

Which Nutrients Best Support Healthy Vision?

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. It supports healthy capillaries, gums, teeth, and cartilage. Vitamin C can be found in virtually every cell in the body, and its concentration is significantly higher in the retina than in the blood. Since the human body does not make vitamin C, it must be consumed as part of the diet.


Zinc is a trace mineral that is found in high concentrations in the eye. It plays a critical role in transporting vitamin A to the retina. Zinc deficiency has been linked to poor night vision and cloudy cataracts. Zinc appears to provide an additive effect of antioxidant protection and helping to promote good visual acuity.

Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are selectively transported across the BBB and deposited in the macula of the eye. They serve as antioxidants, which help to neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Additionally, they serve to help filter out and reduce the damaging effects of high-energy blue light thus also helping to improve visual acuity.

Bilberry Extract

The bilberry fruit is rich in antioxidant anthocyanosides and has been shown to help retain healthy capillaries, including those in the eye and by helping to support the retina. This is especially important to help support eye health but also to deliver nutrients to this highly metabolically active tissue.

People often question the effectiveness of daily vitamin and mineral supplements, and it can get even more complex when discussing products as innovative as USANA CellSentials™. Watch as top USANA scientists reveal the powerful science—including USANA InCelligence Technology™—behind our mineral and antioxidant supplements that provide unique triple-action, cellular support.

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