The role of nutritional supplementation in prevention of onset or progression of ocular disease is of interest to health care professionals and patients. The aim of this review is to identify those antioxidants most appropriate for inclusion in an ideal ocular nutritional supplement, suitable for those with a family history of glaucoma, cataract, or age-related macular disease, or lifestyle factors predisposing onset of these conditions, such as smoking, poor nutritional status, or high levels of sunlight exposure. It would also be suitable for those with early stages of age-related ocular disease. Literature searches were carried out on Web of Science and PubMed for articles relating to the use of nutrients in ocular disease. Those highlighted for possible inclusion were vitamins A, B, C and E, carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, minerals selenium and zinc, and the herb, Ginkgo biloba. Conflicting evidence is presented for vitamins A and E in prevention of ocular disease; these vitamins have roles in the production of rhodopsin and prevention of lipid peroxidation respectively. B vitamins have been linked with a reduced risk of cataract and studies have provided evidence supporting a protective role of vitamin C in cataract prevention. Beta-carotene is active in the prevention of free radical formation, but has been linked with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. Improvements in visual function in patients with age-related macular disease have been noted with lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation. Selenium has been linked with a reduced risk of cataract and activates the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, protecting cell membranes from oxidative damage while zinc, although an essential component of antioxidant enzymes, has been highlighted for risk of adverse effects. As well as reducing platelet aggregation and increasing vasodilation, Gingko biloba has been linked with improvements in pre-existing field damage in some patients with normal tension glaucoma. We advocate that vitamins C and E, and lutein/zeaxanthin should be included in our theoretically ideal ocular nutritional supplement.
Bibliographical noteConference on Multi-Disciplinary Low Vision Rehabilitation and Research, Aston, Enghand, December 2003. © 2004 The College of Optometrists. Published by Wiley-Blackwell.
- age-related eye disease
- Ginkgo biloba
- vitamin C
- vitamin E