Science tells us that vitamin E is important to vision and may protect the eyes against certain diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration or even cataract.
Among many nutrients, vitamin A usually springs to mind when eye health is mentioned. However, vitamin A is not the only eye-friendly nutrient.
As evident from the title, in this article we will focus on only one of these eye-friendly nutrients; vitamin E.
We will talk about the importance of vitamin E for your eyes and explain why you should consume enough of this vitamin in your diet to maintain proper eye health.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient that has many functions in the human body, such as; supporting the immune system and reducing the risk of blood clots. Yet, protecting body tissue against the damaging effects of free radicals appears to be the main function of vitamin E, which is a highly-effective antioxidant [5, 6, 7].
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, vitamin E has several forms; however, alpha-tocopherol is the only one that can be used by the human body .
Free-Radicals & Eye Health & Vitamin E
Now, we know that vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body from the negative effects of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that move around the body to pair with electrons. While doing so, they can cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA, thus, bringing about certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes [14, 15, 16, 17].
It is also believed that prolonged oxidative stress – a condition that occurs when there is an excess amount of free radicals in the body – can lead to many eye problems such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts [18, 19, 20, 21].
This is actually where vitamin E comes in handy. Since vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, it can lessen or prevent the effects of free radicals and may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Research & Vitamin E & Eye Diseases
As vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, researchers think that it may protect certain parts of the eye which is susceptible to oxidative damage.
Research studies on vitamin E and eye diseases support the idea that vitamin E may help protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration and even cataracts thanks to its antioxidant property.
In this section, we will touch on some of these studies.
AREDS Study Suggest: Vitamin E Helps Prevent (AMD)
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), sponsored by the National Eye Institute, was designed to evaluate the effect of daily consumption of a specially formulated nutritional supplement – which includes 500 mg of Vitamin C, 80 mg of zinc, 2 mg of copper, 28,640 IU of Vitamin A (as beta carotene) and 400 IU of Vitamin E – on the progression of AMD.
3,640 people with moderate to advanced age-related degeneration took the specially formulated nutritional supplement, known as AREDS, every day for about 7 years.
The results showed that AREDS supplement – which contain 400 IU of vitamin E along with other nutrients –reduced participants’ risk of progressing to the advanced stages of AMD by 25% and also reduce the risk of AMD-related vision loss by about 20%.
Studies Suggest: Vitamin E “May” Help Prevent Cataracts
A large population-based study, in Wisconsin, found that long term use of vitamin E and C supplements may lower the risk of cataracts up to 60 per cent.
Another study looked at the dietary intake of about 35,000 female health professionals by using a detailed food frequency questionnaire. Results showed that higher dietary intakes of lutein/zeaxanthin and vitamin E from food and supplements were associated with a significantly decreased risk of cataracts.
In one study, named The Roche European American Cataract Trial, researchers aimed to evaluate the effect of a mixture of oral antioxidant micronutrients – which includes beta carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C – on the progression of age-related cataracts. The findings showed that 3 years of daily use of the above-mentioned nutrients slightly reduced the progression of cataracts.
Another study, on the other hand, didn’t find any positive effect of vitamin E supplements on the progression of cataracts.
The conclusion is that more research is needed to understand the exact effect of vitamin E on the development or progression of cataracts.
Beware! Consuming Too much Vitamin E Can be Harmful
Vitamin E appears to be useful for preventing some serious age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
However, if you consume too much vitamin E it can bring about some side effects, because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can accumulate in your body’s fatty tissue and in your liver [24, 25, 26, 27].
Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin E
You may want to use vitamin E supplements in high doses to improve your vision or for any other reason. Given that a high dose of vitamin E can be dangerous, we strongly recommend you work with your eye doctor or general physician to determine the right dose of vitamin E for you.
As for the recommended daily intake of vitamin E, 15 mg consumption of vitamin E (d-alpha-Tocopherol) per day is recommended to everyone older than 14 by the National Institutes of Health.
Vitamin E Rich Foods
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, natural forms of vitamin E are generally more beneficial to your body and eyes than vitamin E supplements.
Based on that, consider getting enough vitamin E through natural sources.
Here are the foods that are high in vitamin E.
1- Wheat Germ Oil
2- Sunflower Seeds
4- Hazelnut Oils
5- Sunflower Oil
7- Atlantic Salmon
Throughout the article, we have discussed the potential benefits of vitamin E for the eyes based on the findings of relevant studies.
It appears that vitamin E may protect the eyes against the effects of AMD and cataracts because it is a strong antioxidant.
Not only your eyes though, but your whole body would also see the benefit of eating enough vitamin E per day. It bears repeating, consuming too much of this vitamin may cause fatal side effects.
For this reason, we strongly recommend you discuss the pros and cons of using Vitamin E supplements with your health care provider.
Our last suggestion is that in order to maintain healthy vision do not forget to visit your eye doctor at least once a year.
Tarkan is an experienced medical writer ( currently more than 600 medical articles ) and also the founder of this website namely www.neededforhealth.com. His expertise in health stems from in-depth medical research and knowledge which he obtained over the course of many years.
Tarkan enjoys sharing factual knowledge on health, psychology and nutrition. He always aims to deliver evidence-based recommendations, provide links to related scientific studies.