Here's an unavoidable fact of life for just about everyone over 40. Eventually you'll hear yourself saying seven inevitable words: "I can’t read it without my glasses". When reading the movie timetables becomes completely impossible, most of us surrender to the inevitable and realize we need reading glasses. We assume that vision problems are a natural consequence of aging.

Are they?

Yes and no. Right now there's not much you can do about the need for reading glasses (see below), but there's an awful lot you can do naturally to prevent other conditions of vision deterioration.

The need for reading glasses is caused by a condition known as presbyopia. Normally, all cells in the body, as they die, are carried away by the blood stream, or they're sloughed off in the skin or cut off in the hair. Then new cells replace them. But in the eye, the lens itself is in a capsule, so these old dead cells have nowhere to go. They basically stay within the capsule. By the time men are 45 and women are 40, the lens is so "crowded" that it simply can't flex enough for close reading. Hence you need reading glasses.

But there's good news, as well. A major clinical trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute- a division of the National Institutes of Health- found that supplementation can make a huge difference in staving off other (more serious) kinds of age-related vision problems, namely macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in adults over 65.

The study- known as the ARED study (for Age-Related Eye Disease) involved over 4,700 participants age 55-80 in 11 national centers. It found that people at high risk for developing macular degeneration lowered that risk by about 25% when treated with a high dose combination of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc. The exact combination used in the study was 500 mg of C, 400 IUs of E, 15 mg of beta-carotene; 80 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper. Copper was given to prevent potential deficiency which can happen when you take high levels of zinc.

Age-related Macular Degeneration gradually destroys sharp central vision. The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. It's located in the center of the retina. Macular Degeneration occurs in two forms- wet and dry. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal, fragile blood vessels begin to grow under the macula and leak blood and fluid which ultimately damage the macula. Dry AMD happens when the light-sensitive cells in the macula gradually break down. For both, an early symptom is something called a drusen, yellow deposits under the retina that are typically found in people over 60.

Previous research has shown that people eating diets rich in green leafy vegetables have a lower risk of developing macular degeneration in the first place, showing that diet can certainly have an effect on aging eyes. Blueberries in particular contain compounds that are very important for eye health. Yet even with a good diet, the extra antioxidants are likely to help.

Since the ARED study was done, two members of the carotenoid family- lutein and zeaxanthin- have gotten a ton of attention in the nutrition community for their positive effects on the eye. (I called them the new "superstars of eye nutrition" in my book, "The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth”.) Both nutrients are deposited in the macula. An Australian study published in the journal Ophthalmology found that higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin may slash the risk of macular degeneration by a whopping 65%. The new, ongoing ARED 2 study now includes both lutein and zeaxanthin in their antioxidant formula. Among the highest lutein-zeaxanthin foods are kale, spinach, collard greens, peppers, peas, squash and…. my personal favorite- egg yolks!

So you may not be able to stave off reading glasses even with a great diet and extra antioxidants, but that’s hardly the worst thing in the world. The really excellent news is you can prevent much worse things from happening to your eyes- and to the rest of your body and brain- by eating a healthy diet rich in omegas, protein, fiber, enzymes and a ton of protective antioxidants.

And in my opinion (and the opinion of the researchers at the National Eye Institute), supplements would be a great addition to that program!

Author's Bio: 

Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS is the author of "The Most Effective Natural Cures on Earth” as well as two other best selling books. A board certified nutritionist with a Masters degree in psychology, he is a featured health writer on America Online and was the Weight Loss Coach for for ten years. A popular and dynamic speaker, he has been contributed material to over 50 national publications and appeared on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC as a nutrition, weight loss and health expert. Dr. Bowden is Self-Growth's Official Guide for Nutrition. For more info, free newsletter and free audio courses, please visit him at

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