See the Benefits of Vitamin C for Your Eyes
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is essential for proper functioning of many different systems of the body, including your eyes. While the human body can do many wonderful and amazing things, unfortunately, it cannot create its own vitamin C, and because the vitamin is water-soluble, very little can be stored. Therefore, it's vital to get vitamin C from food sources every day or you will develop a deficiency fairly quickly.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of daily vitamin C varies by age and gender:
- Children 1-3 years: 15 milligrams (mg)
- Children 4-8 years: 25 milligrams (mg)
- Children 9-13 years: 45 milligrams (mg)
- Males 14-18 years: 75 milligrams (mg)
- Females 14-18 years: 65 milligrams (mg)
- Males 19 and older: 90 milligrams (mg)
- Females 19 and older: 75 milligrams (mg)
- During pregnancy if age 14-18: 80 milligrams (mg)
- During pregnancy 19 and older: 85 milligrams (mg)
- During lactation if age 14-18: 115 milligrams (mg)
- During lactation age 19 and older: 120 milligrams (mg)
The effects of vitamin C on the eye
Various studies have shown vitamin C to have positive, protective effects on the eyes, for example:
- It may reduce the risk for cataracts.
- When used in combination with vitamin E, it may help decrease the risk for developing macular degeneration.
- It may help to lower intraocular pressure and prevent or alleviate some of the symptoms of glaucoma
While it may sound strange at first, it's actually not all that surprising that vitamin C may have an effect on cataract formation. The eye’s lens contains more vitamin C than almost any other part of the body! (Only the adrenal glands have more.) Doctors have observed that vitamin C levels in an eye that is developing or has developed a cataract are very low, sometimes non-detectable, and some studies have shown that lower blood levels of vitamin C are associated with an increased risk of cataracts. So while it's not known exactly how, many believe that a diet rich in vitamin C can help protect against cataracts. (While there are no guarantees, as long as you don't overdo it, there's no harm in trying.)
Food sources of vitamin C
It is always best to get your vitamins, minerals and other vital nutrients from healthy, natural sources. Great sources of vitamin C include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
- Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits
- Kale and mustard greens
When choosing your food sources for vitamin C, remember that raw is the best way to eat them. If you cannot buy fresh food items, opt for frozen over canned because the canning process depletes too many of the vital nutrients from the foods. In addition, exposure to light destroys vitamin C so choose your juice in opaque jugs whenever possible.
Signs of vitamin C deficiency
If your diet is severely lacking in vitamin C, you could end up with a condition called scurvy. Once common among sailors, who had limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables during voyages, this disease is now rare in the United States and is mainly seen in alcoholics and malnourished elderly patients.
Initial symptoms of vitamin C deficiency in adults include fatigue, irritability, weight loss and achy muscles and joints. Symptoms for children include the above plus loss of appetite, lack of proper weight gain and impairment of bone growth.
Symptoms of scurvy begin after a few months of deficiency and include bleeding under the skin and into the joints. The gums may bleed as well and become swollen, purple and spongy; teeth become loose and may fall out spontaneously. You can also become anemic, develop an infection may notice that wounds aren't healing.
Vitamin C overdose and safety concerns
Consuming too much vitamin C typically leads to stomach upset and diarrhea, which can sometimes be intense. Vitamin C overdose can also lead to copper deficiency or iron overdose because the vitamin influences the body's processing of these minerals.
In addition, excessive vitamin C levels may lead to macular puckering and increase your chance of retinal detachment, a medical emergency that can cause permanent vision loss. Those who are at increased risk of retinal detachment and those who are very near sighted should discuss these risks with their eye doctor before beginning a supplement regimen.
So how much is too much? Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting information on this subject. One research study demonstrated that vitamin C, even in extremely high doses, is virtually harmless, but other studies have shown that it endangers the eyes and can cause kidney stones, not to mention the unpleasant aspect of serious diarrhea. Some doctors believe that doses up to 1,000 mg/day are safe, others say 2,000, and still others prescribe megadoses of 10,000 mg/day for the treatment of certain conditions. This is definitely a case where you should err on the side of caution and follow the dosing advice of your health care professionals. Only your doctors know your detailed medical history and can help you decide what sort of diet and supplements can maximize your health while minimizing your risks.
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