We all know, usually from experience, that just because something is good for us in a small amount, it does not necessarily follow that more of it will be even better. Whether we are talking about the size of government, free time, rainfall or a wide range of other things, it is fairly common knowledge that even those things that we love and need can become problematic or even harmful in excess. We know this can literally be a matter of life and death in the case of drugs and many types of medications, and it is also a significant factor when it comes to vitamin and mineral supplements. This includes taking zinc to try to improve vision or counteract the effects of aging on eyesight.
Zinc is naturally occurring throughout the body and plays important roles in metabolic functions as well as supporting the immune system. In addition, zinc is a key player in wound healing and is needed not only for our eyesight but also for our sense of smell and taste. There are numerous food sources for zinc and, normally, we get a sufficient amount of this mineral in our diets. Some of the more common foods that contain zinc include:
Oysters (which contain more zinc than any other known food source), lobster and crab
Breakfast cereals (that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals that include zinc)
It should be noted that Americans get most of their zinc from red meat and poultry because the zinc in beans, grains and other plant foods contain phytates, which interfere with the body’s ability to absorb zinc.
Although not conclusive, there has been research suggesting that zinc supplementation may slow or possibly prevent the cellular damage in the retina that often comes with age. This condition is known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and is one of the most common causes of vision loss and even blindness in people over the age of 50. That zinc may aid in the prevention or slow the progression of AMD is, of course, a good thing. There are, however, dangers in taking too much zinc. Beyond the possible side effects that include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion and headaches, too much zinc can actually damage the very cells in the retina that you are trying to protect.
There are also other considerations to keep in mind when increasing zinc supplementation. Taken in high doses or for long periods of time, zinc can cause copper deficiency, which may lead to neurological issues. Certain drugs and medications are known to have negative interactions with zinc, especially antibiotics, penicillamine and some diuretics used to help control blood pressure.
Few things are more important to us than our eyesight. Taking care of it should be a top priority. Lifestyle choices can make a big difference. This includes maintaining a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables, especially those that are green and leafy, as well as properly sourced fish. Getting regular exercise, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control and avoiding all tobacco products are all important. Zinc supplementation may or may not belong on this list but it is a decision that should be made in consultation with your eye care professional.
If you would like to learn more about nutritional supplements or any vision-related issue, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our four convenient Long Island office locations. For more information, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you, Bellmore, Great Neck, Little Neck or Huntington. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.