Research Findings Clarify Benefits of Supplement Use for Eye Health

Person's hand holding an assortment of tablets and capsulesWe all strive to be as healthy as possible. For those of us with an eye health condition, managing symptoms and maintaining eye health are an important focus of our nutritional efforts and lifestyle choices. Many of our patients here at BostonSight use complementary nutritional therapies to supplement BostonSight® PROSE treatment.

Dietary supplements are typically one component of a nutritional regime to support eye health and help prevent future problems. Do these supplements really stack up to all of their claims? New results from a long-term, nationwide study indicate the benefits of supplements for reducing the prevalence of age-related blinding eye diseases.

In 2001, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) led by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health concluded that daily supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc and copper could help slow the progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These micronutrients, referred to as the AREDS formulation, reduced the risk of advanced AMD by about 25 percent over a five-year period. Researchers found no effect on cataract. The participants in this initial study have now been followed for more than 10 years and the benefits from the AREDS formulation have remained throughout this time period.

A 5-year extension of this study, named AREDS2, was launched in 2006 with the goal of determining if the AREDS formulation could be improved and whether additional eye benefits might result. Prior studies indicated that omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin might provide benefits as well and were added to the initial AREDS formulation. In addition, concerns over beta-carotene as a cancer-causing agent in smokers and zinc as a contributor toward stomach irritation led to the elimination or reduction of these components of the AREDS formulation for the study extension. The results from AREDS2 showed that there was no additional benefit to the incorporation of the omega-3 fatty acids or lutein and zeaxanthin to the formulation. However, participants who consumed minimal lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets did show additional benefit. In a separate study, the AREDS2 researchers examined the effect of the modified formulation on cataract and found no benefit.

Overall, the AREDS2 study results provide additional guidance on the risks and benefits of these selected vitamins and minerals on age-related eye diseases. As with any dietary supplements, it is best to consult your health-care provider before incorporating them into your diet to ensure that they will not adversely impact any health conditions or interfere with ongoing medical treatment.

Do you use supplements to support your eye health? How have these supplements helped you?