Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to ensure you are eating all of the healthy nutrients you need to maintain good eye health. That’s likely why taking supplements to prevent eye disease in later stages of life has increased in popularity over the past two decades.
Eye health supplements are designed to add to a healthy diet. Don’t be misguided by assuming taking vitamins can replace a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and limited sugar and junk food intake. Relying on vitamins instead of nutrient-dense eating feeds serious nutritional shortcomings, so be cognizant of what benefits a vitamin is touting.
While there is a lot of misguided information out there, research has shown some vitamins are beneficial for maintaining eye health and good vision.
What to look for
As vision supplement research continues, we do know that boosting your diet with a daily eye-healthy vitamin that contains many, if not all, of the following ingredients is beneficial. These vitamins and nutrients can aid in reducing inflammation and oxidative changes associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including chronic and age-related eye problems. However, they are in no way alternatives to treatment for any eye disease:
While dietary supplements are safe to use, if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking blood thinners, speak to your doctor before using any type of nutritional supplements. Always make sure to follow recommended dosage instructions on the bottle to reduce the risk of a negative reaction.
The possibility of reducing risk of AMD with a pill
The National Eye Institute opened an Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), reporting in 2001 that a nutritional supplement called the AREDS formulation can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The original AREDS formula contained vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper.
Exploring the outcomes
Later in 2006, a second study was initiated to determine if they could improve the formulation. They tested adding the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, adding omega-3 fatty acids, removing beta-carotene, and lowering the dose of zinc.
By 2013, the NIH determined that lutein and zeaxanthin may be helpful, but omega-3 did not have a positive effect over five years.
“Millions of older Americans take nutritional supplements to protect their sight without clear guidance regarding benefit and risk,” said NEI director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. “This study clarifies the role of supplements in helping prevent advanced AMD, an incurable, common, and devastating disease that robs older people of their sight and independence.”
The study results provide physicians and patients with new information about preventing vision loss from AMD. People over the age of 60 should get a dilated eye exam at least once a year and should discuss with their eye care professional whether taking AREDS supplements (i.e., daily high doses of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc and copper) is appropriate.
The studies also emphasize the fact that eye supplements are designed to add to, and not replace, nutrients obtained from a healthy diet. Taking dietary supplements cannot completely make up for nutritional deficits from a poor diet, which are associated with many serious health problems, including vision loss.
If you have questions about your vision health and what supplements may be beneficial, find an FYidoctors location near you to schedule an appointment with one of our professionals.