[Micronutrients and their relevance for the eye--function of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids].Klin Monbl Augenheilkd. 2011 Jun; 228(6):537-43.KM
Micronutrients play an important role in function and health maintenance for the eye. Especially lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids perform remarkable functions: lutein together with zeaxanthin forms the macular pigment, these carotenoids filter out the damaging blue light component from the sunlight as well as the ultraviolet light which leads to improved contrast sensitivity and less problems with screen glare. Furthermore, the macular pigment has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The omega-3 fatty acids also possess anti-inflammatory effects and, when converted into neuroprotectin, they protect against oxidative induced apoptosis in the retina. They are also responsible for the fluidity and supply to the photoreceptor membrane. These properties are important for the prevention and treatment of degenerative eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration. However, older people are often not sufficiently supplied of micronutrients in their diet. Because the supply of nutrients can hardly be achieved by dietary change, the additional intake in the form of food supplements is useful in this age group. Scientific studies have shown the positive effects of supplementation with micronutrients such as lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid (DHA and EPA). Currently available nutritional products are based in part on the ingredients of the ARED study (Age Related Eye Disease Study). According to more recent studies formulations containing lutein and omega-3 fatty acids in physiologically meaningful doses without additional beta-carotene should be preferred. 10 to 20 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin represent a safe daily dose Regarding to the context above, beta-carotene in high doses plays a minor role to the eye and is especially critical for the health of smokers. This paper summarises the functions of the presented micronutrients in the eye and can assist ophthalmologists in advising their patients.