Written by Dr. Mark Levy, Senior Scientist at USANA Health Sciences
Sponsored by USANA Health Sciences
When people hear of or discuss the dangers of ultra-violet (UV) light, it is often in association with sun burn or skin cancer. However, UV light can also endanger other parts of the human body, like your eyes. And, while it may seem ironic that light of any form can damage the eye—since light is absolutely necessary in order for one to “see”—research has shown that UV light can be harmful to the eye.
Unlike visible light that is responsible for the purples, blues, greens, yellows, oranges and reds that color our world, UV light is invisible to the human eye. And, although UV light can be beneficial for humans – UV light is needed for the synthesis of vitamin D by cells in the skin –
UV light can also generate highly reactive compounds called free radicals that can damage many components of a cell and tissues, including cells and tissues within the eye.
Since UV light originates from the sun, it is almost impossible to avoid its harmful effects. However, steps can be taken to protect your eyes and help you maintain healthy vision. Wearing sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB light whenever you’re outside during the day is one essential way of doing this. Another such step is through the selection of a proper diet.
Diet and Nutrition
By choosing a diet that is high in antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and vitamin E, you can provide your eyes with an array of compounds that can help support your long term eye health.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to promote eye health in two ways. These two antioxidants absorb high energy blue light that can generate free radicals, that UV light would otherwise promote. They can also scavenge free radicals directly by picking them up and adding them to their own chemistry so they don’t damage other compounds in the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin be obtained by eating eggs plants such as broccoli, kale, and corn, or through dietary supplements.
- Vitamin C
Found in very high concentrations in the eye, particularly the lens, it too is a well-known antioxidant which, similar to lutein and zeaxanthin, filters UV light and combats free radicals. To increase your vitamin C intake, try adding citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers and broccoli to your diet.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is the primary fat soluble, free radical-scavenging vitamin. It is found mainly within membranes of a cell where it helps to maintain membrane structure and integrity by inhibiting free radical damage – including free radical damage initiated by UV light. Prime dietary sources of vitamin E include various plant seeds and nuts such as almonds, sunflowers and peanuts. Eggs, spinach and avocados are also good sources of vitamin E.
For more information visit www.usanahealth.net.
Dr. Mark A. Levy
Dr. Mark A. Levy has a Ph.D. in human nutrition from Ohio State University; a master’s degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Guelph; and bachelor’s degrees in food science and biology from Acadia University. Mark is currently a senior scientist at USANA Health Sciences and has been published in 15 different journals and presented posters and seminars at numerous scientific conferences. Mark has 14 years of research experience from five different universities, and also dabbled in teaching during that same time. Mark’s passions and areas of expertise include research surrounding the role of antioxidants in human health and physiology, with a particular emphasis on developing dietary supplements that promote human health through their antioxidant properties.
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