Supplements for Overall Eye Health

Finding the right supplement for overall eye health can be difficult as there as so many on the market claiming to help.

In order to support eye health throughout our lives we would recommend a product with at least 10mg of lutein (if not 15mg or 20mg) and then a combination of other vitamins and minerals.

You may also want to consider the number you need to take a day or the form a particular product takes. For example, if you don't like taking tablets then a chewable gummy might be more appropriate. 

In conjunction with Thea Pharmaceuticals, dietitian Helen Bond explains why a balanced diet really is so important, what the key nutrients needed for maintaining eye health are and how to get these nutrients into our daily diet.

• Vitamins and minerals
• Carotenoids
• Essential fatty acids
• Micro-nutrients

Macular pigments


There are over 600 known carotenoids found naturally in the world. They are believed to be important for the eye because they are found in high doses at the macula – the central part of our eye responsible for vision and affected by macular degeneration.

Their role in macular heath is not fully known, but they are thought to play an important role by absorbing damaging blue wavelengths of light and acting as anti-oxidants, helping ‘mop-up’ damaging ‘free radicals’. 

Some people have lower macular pigment levels (either naturally or due to diet or weight issues) and this may put them at a greater risk of developing degeneration in the eye.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are not made in the body so have to be consumed in our diets and that is why they are considered the most interesting constituents for use in dietary supplements. They give some food their characteristic colour e.g. sweet peppers, saffron, sweetcorn. They are found in higher quantities in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale. When they age and start to turn yellow, this is the lutein you are seeing. 

In supplements these are usually made from an extract of marigold flowers (Tagetes erecta). Most studies use a dose of at least 10mg lutein and 2mg zeaxanthin to look for a protective effect but European diets are thought to only contain about 3mg of lutein a day.


Meso-zeaxanthin, unlike lutein and zeaxanthin, is made naturally in the body from lutein. This means that is does not occur in large amounts in our diet.

Like lutein and zeaxanthin it is extracted from the marigold flower (Tagetes erecta).


Natural astaxanthin from the microalgae, Haematococcus pluvialis, is a natural carotenoid that can be found from arctic marine environments, to common fresh water rock pools throughout the world. Astaxanthin is what gives the pink and red colour to salmon, shrimp and lobster.

Astaxanthin is considered one of the purest molecules because it has no-proxidant activity even when subjected to enormous amount of stress from environmental factors and free radicals. 

It is a better antioxidant than vitamin C, E, resveratrol or co-enzyme Q10.

Other ingredients to look for

Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Vitamin C cannot be made by the body so must be taken in through the diet and 90% comes from eating fruit and vegetables. It is needed to make collagen which is vital for the health of our skin, eyes, bones, teeth, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.

This vitamin has also been shown to reduce the length and severity of colds, although it does not prevent them.

By strengthening and repairing the walls of the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye, vitamin C helps to stabilise degeneration. Vitamin C has also been approved by the European Food Standards Agency for the claim:

• Vitamin C contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress

Vitamin E

Vitamin E

Vitamin E refers to a group of fat soluble compounds found relatively freely in our diet, including various oils, spreads, cereals, nuts and seeds. It has various roles including anti-oxidant functions.

Vitamin E is included in the AREDS2 formula as it protects cell membranes. This is important as it then maintains the structure of the cells at the back of the eye, preventing their degeneration. Vitamin E has also been approved by the European Food Standards Agency for the claim:

• Vitamin C contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress



Zinc is a trace mineral thought to improve a number of medical conditions including the common cold. Studies have shown it can help with healing wounds such as burns or leg ulcers. Zinc is also believed to be important for vision because it is found at relatively high levels in the macula and enables vitamin A to create the pigment melanin which helps absorb light.

Zinc has also been approved by the European Food Standards Agency for the claim:

• Zinc contributes to the maintenance of normal vision

Omega 3

Omega 3 (EPA & DHA)

Omega 3 essential fatty acids refer to a group of three fats called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in plants such as flaxseed and EPA and DHA in fish oils. They are termed essential because they are not made within the body but are needed for vital body functions.

With relation to the eye, Omega 3 is believed to have several beneficial effects including reducing the symptoms of dry eyes and slowing the progression of age related degeneration. Some omega 3 fatty acids have also been approved by the European Food Standards Agency for an eye health claim:

• EPA contributes to the maintenance of normal vision

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