Research from the American Optometric Association discusses how crucial vitamin D is for our eyes, bones, and heart. Having a deficiency can lead to many types of eye conditions. When we think about nutrients for eye health, we often jump to beta-carotene. But, vitamin D is incredibly necessary for eye health and strong vision.
Despite its underrated reputation, vitamin D may be one of the most beneficial nutrients for preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The benefits don’t end there though; vitamin D’s power is extensive. Luckily, there are many different sources we can get it from to maintain optimal eye health.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamins are the chemical compounds that allow our bodies to grow and fight diseases. They ensure our immune system is strong enough to keep us healthy. They also enable the healthy growth of cells all throughout the body. Each vitamin has a different role and function in the body. Vitamin D is unique in that when the body receives it, it gets turned into a hormone. This hormone is sometimes called calcitriol.
Vitamin D/calcitriol allows our bodies to absorb other nutrients from our diets. Specifically, calcium and phosphorus are dependant on vitamin D to be absorbed into the bloodstream. You could eat calcium and phosphorus-rich foods, but without vitamin D, the body can’t use them. Since the body doesn’t produce vitamin D on its own, it’s our job to ensure we get enough through our diet and sun exposure.
How Does It Improve Vision?
Vitamin D is imperative for protecting our eyes from diseases. It’s known to prevent AMD, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome and cataracts. It also enables your eyes to heal from injury.
Studies have shown it to have antineoplastic properties; meaning, it fights cancer. Vitamin D is angiogenic which means it helps prevent the growth of new blood vessels from malignant tumors. There are numerous benefits of vitamin D for vision health.
In the eye, vitamin D fights the degeneration of tissues. As we age, and especially if you’re prone to it, AMD causes the macula to degenerate. Since the macula helps the retina focus our central field of vision, damage to it severely affects our sight. AMD leads to the slow destruction of your central vision. Degeneration of macula tissues can also cause inflammation and irritation in the eyes. Vitamin D relieves inflammation and helps the macula heal. Although the damage done by AMD can’t be reversed, it can be slowed down and prolonged. Vitamin D is crucial to the prevention and treatment of AMD.
Another important function of vitamin D is its help in the prevention of diabetes. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you will have a lowered insulin resistance. This means the extra glucose in your bloodstream doesn’t get used by your cells. By overcoming insulin resistance with healthy doses of vitamin D, you can potentially halt the development of type two diabetes in its tracks. Thus, preventing diabetes-related blindness.
Without vitamin D, you are at risk for developing these eye conditions and other health concerns. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a global issue that leads to more and more cases of AMD and other diseases. This is a serious health concern that isn’t given enough attention.
It’s especially important that infants and children get the recommended dose of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D deficiencies are dangerous for young eyes that are still developing. As adults, it’s important to be knowledgeable about how much vitamin D your doctor recommends, as well as where you can get it from.
Where Can You Get Vitamin D?
Most people associate vitamin D with sunlight exposure. This is the main way our body creates and uses vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to the UV-B rays from the sun, it produces vitamin D which then disperses to the rest of your body. However, this doesn’t mean you should spend the whole day in the sun unprotected.
The sun’s rays are extremely dangerous in excess. Yes, it’s crucial we get some exposure. But too much can damage and cause cancer in the skin and eyes. Fair-skinned people are recommended to get about 10 minutes of sun exposure. Darker skin tones can add a few more minutes, not exceeding 15. After that, all skin types need to wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
We also get vitamin D from our diets. Since we tend to spend less time outdoors than in the past, reliance on food for vitamin D is increasing. Some foods that are high in vitamin D are:
Fortified yogurts, orange juices, and soy beverages
Ideally, a mixture of sun exposure and dietary intake will give you enough vitamin D each day. If your diet prevents you from eating these foods, consider taking a supplement.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for eye health. Without it, you risk developing AMD, cataracts, and many other risky conditions. Although you can get your daily intake from sun exposure, it’s recommended you don’t overdo it. Don’t exceed the recommended time and always protect your eyes from UV ray exposure. A safer means of getting vitamin D is through your diet or a supplement.
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.