Antioxidants. We hear that word often these days. Usually in the context of health and nutrition. We know they are good. We are supposed to take in lots of them. But do we know why? Do we know what they do, or what they even are? Yes? No? Maybe? This article will take the mystery out of it so that we can understand why they are so important in our lives. It may even be a surprise to learn how crucial they are to the health of our eyes!
ANTI”-oxidants combat or remove oxidants (compounds that oxidize) from our systems. They are responsible for rust on metal and that nasty brown color on an apple after it’s left exposed to the air. This process is oxidation. Cells metabolize oxygen to produce energy (good), but this results in oxidants (also known as free radicals). These harmful compounds, if allowed to build up in quantity, can cause major damage to cells and their ability to function properly.
How do we cope with the damage? Helpful scavenger compounds donate electrons to these free radicals, which then neutralizes them and prevents them from causing harm. These scavengers are called antioxidants and their role is crucial to cellular health in everyone.
This process is especially true in our eyes because they are exposed to higher levels of oxidative stress and increased metabolic activity. Toxic substances such as smog, cigarette smoke, and ultraviolet light increase free radical production. That means more oxidation! Antioxidants work synergistically to protect the eyes and recent studies have shown that low levels of them is correlated with increased risk of ocular disease. In other words, we need them even more for good eye health!
In the eye, damage from oxidation plays a role in cataract formation, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome. That is why the eye is rich in a very common antioxidant, vitamin C. The fluid within our eyes contains 15 times greater concentration of vitamin C than in the rest of the body, suggesting that vitamin C may protect against harmful factors within the eye, where oxidative stress is at a maximum. If you have early signs of these eye problems speak with an eye care professional and ask for counseling about the importance of antioxidants, in particular, vitamin C. Guided supplementation and dietary recommendations should follow this. The goal is to provide the eye and its cells with enough power to resist the damage caused by ultraviolet light and oxidative stress and ultimately, prevent protein damage.
Stay tuned in the coming issues to read about other fundamental vitamins, foods, herbs, and of course antioxidants, and how they play a role in keeping you and your eyes healthy. Helping you “SEE” health.
Dr. Neda Gioia is a licensed optometrist with certification through Functional Medicine University and a current CNS candidate. She is a fellow of the Ocular Wellness Society, a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and has been featured in Review of Optometry and Women in Optometry. She is the owner and founder of Integrative Vision Corp., in Shrewsbury, NJ. Currently accepting new adult and pediatric patients 732.389.2792, integrativevision.com
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This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Natural Awakenings Monmouth/Ocean. Click here to subscribe.