Though many are unaware, our nation is facing an eye care epidemic. Since smartphones, tablets, and laptops have become commonplace in the average American home, our digital screen time has increased exponentially. (In fact, a recent Statista survey reveals that almost half of respondents spend about five to six hours on their phone daily.)
Even if you have 20/20 vision without wearing any type of corrective lenses, the ability to read highway signs isn’t the single factor defining how well you care for your eyes. As it turns out, excessive screen use can lead to tired, dry, fatigued eyes, impacting our ability to focus, eye function, and even vision longevity later in life.
Luckily, there are actionable steps we can take to bolster eye nutrition and foster vision longevity—including adding a comprehensive eye health supplement to our daily routine.* Here, we’ve outlined the vision-supporting nutrients to look out for and identified the most innovative eye health supplements available on the market today.
Vitamins that support eye health.
There are a number of nutrients that support eye health and longevity, and most of them aren’t vitamins at all. In fact, there are myriad bioactives that promote eye function and visual performance—including essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, key carotenoids, and other phytonutrients.
“Diet is a key lifestyle factor that can have long-term effects on ocular health. More specifically, the American Optometric Association—as well as scientists from the academic domain—have clearly acknowledged the role of key nutrients in supporting eye health and vision performance,” explains Deshanie Rai, Ph.D., FACN, vice president of scientific & regulatory affairs at OmniActive Health Technologies.
“These include vitamins A, C, D and E; zinc and copper; the macular carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin; and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that we’re consuming adequate levels of these nutrients through our daily diets,”* Rai notes.
Optometrist and author of What You Must Know About Food and Supplements for Optimal Vision Care, Jeffrey Anshel, O.D., FAAO, adds another type of macular carotenoid to the list: meso-zeaxanthin.
“Lutein is converted to another form [of zeaxanthin] called meso-zeaxanthin. The tricky part is that meso-zeaxanthin is not in the normal diet—it’s found in shrimp shells, fish skin, and turtle shells,” Anshel says, explaining the need for adequate lutein (and zeaxanthin) through diet and supplementation to make sure you get enough of these essential macular carotenoids.
But vision-critical carotenoids don’t end with lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin. According to Anshel, astaxanthin is also essential for eye health, as it affects ocular blood flow and promotes overall longevity—especially in our modern digital world.* “They’ve done studies with astaxanthin to show it does help people who are looking at computer screens all day,” he shares, noting astaxanthin’s ability to support reset and recovery.*
Karen Hecht, Ph.D., scientific affairs manager at AstaReal, adds that astaxanthin has also been a staple in eye health research conducted in Asia and Europe. The problem? The American diet doesn’t support sufficient intake of this eye-critical carotenoid.
“The average American falls short of consuming the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, which contribute to 90% of dietary carotenoid intake. Astaxanthin is unique among carotenoids, in that it is not found in fruit and vegetables. Instead, astaxanthin is primarily found in wild salmon,” Hecht explains. “Based on average consumption of salmon among Americans, it’s estimated that diet alone provides 11 milligrams of astaxanthin annually.”
With all these critical eye nutrients and a serious gap in the average American diet, the need for a comprehensive, daily eye supplement with targeted formulation is clear.
Experts say yes—and add that they’re not only helpful, but critical given the modern stressors our eyes are subject to.
“Eyes are exposed to physiological and environmental factors that trigger free radical production. That’s why dietary antioxidants—including vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin—have long been studied by the National Eye Institute,” says Hecht. “The important things to look for are bioactive ingredients that can cross the blood retinal barrier and are supported by double-blind placebo-controlled studies that have demonstrated eye health benefits in healthy participants.”
The thing is, like all dietary supplements, finding an effective, high-quality eye supplement can be difficult (to say the least). Here are the top criteria we used while seeking the top eye supplements to include in this list:
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.