Burning eyes, dry eyes, headaches and even double vision, how many of us experience these symptoms after a day of work spent among computer screens, tablets and smartphones. To prevent and mitigate these symptoms, we can deploy small measures, such as often looking away or doing eye mobility exercises, but nutrition can also help us. Today we are talking about the best dietary choices to protect eyes and sight, based on a very recent review that appeared in the Nutrients magazine thanks to the work of an American team from the Western University of Health Science (Lem et al, Nutrients, 2022).
The causes of eye strain and dry eye
More and more often work requires staying for many hours in front of a computer and at the end of the day your eyesight can suffer. We can thus experience different disorders ranging from eye discomfort to pain, but also vision problems such as blurry or double vision, dry and red eyes. It is believed that, at the base of this condition, there are both inflammation and high oxidative stress. We know, however, that some foods can precisely counteract both inflammatory and oxidative phenomena.
Therefore, it is possible to establish some guidelines to determine a sight-saving diet, able to mitigate the condition of eye strain and dry eye. But what are these foods that can help? Let's find out on the basis of this recent scientific research.
Substances that save sight
First of all, foods rich in omega 3 are anti-inflammatory. An increase in the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids at the expense of omega 6 has in fact been shown to reduce the levels of inflammation in the body, as well as protect the eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. Not only that, omega 3 fatty acids help keep the eye lubricated, increasing the production of tears. Flavonoids have also been shown to be beneficial for dry eye and eye strain. Among these antioxidants, anthocyanins have proved particularly useful in relieving eye strain.
Then, the different anthocyanins also bring different properties. For example, the antioxidants in black currant improve blood flow in the retina while bilberry has been shown to regenerate rhodopsin, which is a light-sensitive protein responsible for the mechanism of vision. Not only that, bilberry has been shown to improve blood circulation in the eye muscles, thus increasing the capacity for accommodation, even after the sight had been strained to maintain vision on a screen placed at close range. The carotenoids should not be forgotten. In fact, staying in front of a screen for many hours causes overexposure to visible light, especially blue light and, as a consequence, the retina shows an accumulation of free radicals and pro-inflammatory substances. However, our retina has a filter provided by carotenoids capable of protecting against the damage of blue light. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin have proved to be particularly useful for this purpose.
Foods that protect eyes and sight
But what does the eye-saving diet look like? Omega 3s are found in oily fish, such as sardines and salmon, but also in walnuts and flax seeds. Anthocyanins are found in berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, but also elderberry, chokeberry and acai, pomegranate, black grapes, red apple, plums, red cabbage and red lettuce. Zeaxanthin and lutein are found in spinach, green cabbage, but also in corn, carrots, orange peppers and egg yolk.
Did you know that for the health of the eyes and the lens, help comes from foods rich in vitamin C? In fact, this vitamin, more than others, has been shown to reduce the progression of cataracts by more than 30%, protecting the lens from free radical damage, as emerges from a research by King's College London published in the journal Ophthalmology (Yonova Doing et al, Ophthalmology, 2016). So, in a sight-saving diet, oranges, strawberries, kiwis, broccoli, green leafy vegetables and potatoes cannot be missing. Better to resort to foods rich in vitamin C as supplements based on this vitamin have not shown the same protective effect.