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During World War II, the British Air Ministry spread rumors that Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots had developed night vision after eating a diet of carrots. In reality, the RAF was trying to mask its new secret weapon – radar - which enabled pilots to shoot down enemy bombers at night.

Eating carrots won’t give you night vision, but carrots do contain vitamin A, an essential nutrient for eye development and maintaining good eyesight.

About Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that protects the cornea, or outer surface, of the eye. It also maintains function of the retina, the light-sensitive lining that converts light into nerve impulses sent to the brain. Vitamin A is especially important for scotopic (low-light) vision and color vision. Biologists have discovered that there is more vitamin A found in retina and other eye tissue than in any other part of the body.

Research has concluded that vitamin A deficiency is a rare cause of night blindness and a more frequent cause of vision problems for children in developing countries. The vitamin helps the eyes to adjust between the light and dark. While studies are not conclusive, research suggests that vitamin A can be used to prevent and treat:

  • Eye infections
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye inflammation
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular Degeneration

When used in combination with vitamin E, vitamin A may be used for laser eye surgery recovery. *

Foods With Vitamin A

Eating carrots provides vitamin A to promote good eyesight. However, there are many other foods that contain vitamin A. Vitamin A comes in two main types – retinol a.k.a. preformed vitamin A, found in animal products, and carotene a.k.a. provitamin A, found in fruits and vegetables with orange, yellow or dark green pigments. Retinol, when converted to retinal, is an important component of light-sensitive cells called rods and cones found in the retina.

Where To Get Vitamin A - The following foods contain vitamin A:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Butternut Squash
  • Dark Leafy Greens
  • Fish Liver Oil
  • Spices – Paprika, Red Pepper, Cayenne, Chili Powder
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Mangoes

Dietary supplements may also be used to treat vitamin A deficiencies.

Other Vitamins Good For Eyesight

Vitamin C– An antioxidant, this vitamin helps to reduce the risk of cataracts, reduce eye pressure and reduce the likeliness of vision loss from macular degeneration. This vitamin is found in high concentration in the clear layer of liquid inside the eye called the vitreous humor.**

Vitamin D – Found in fish, dairy and eggs, this vitamin can help prevent age-related macular degeneration. Sunlight also assists in producing a healthy dose of vitamin D, but research shows that the most eye-related benefits are gained by getting the vitamin through food.

Vitamin E – A powerful antioxidant, vitamin E shields your eyes against UV rays, reduces the risk of cataracts, prevents eye cell damage and contributes to eye muscle movement. Eggs, nuts, leafy greens, whole grains and vegetable oils contain this vitamin.

More questions about the effects of vitamins on eyesight? Schedule an appointment with Providence Eye & Laser Specialists’ Dr. Reza Mozayeni, a Charlotte, NC vision specialist, board certified Ophthalmologist and cornea specialist.

*The U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

** Herschell H. Boyd, M.D., “Eye Pressure Lowering Effect of Vitamin C,” Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 3 &4, 1995.

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