You already know that serious vision problems—problems that can result in blindness—can creep up with aging. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common. It strikes millions of Americans and involves the gradual deterioration of the part of the eye that detects light, fine detail and color. There are certain “eye vitamins” that could help your vision. In fact, major research has spelled out the exact mix of vitamins and other nutrients that do the trick. The problem is…you may be throwing away good money on bad “medicine” when you’re choosing a vision supplement in your pharmacy or health-food store—unless you know which vitamin supplement really will help your vision.
THE MAGIC FORMULA
We know what works to reduce progression to advanced AMD in people who already have it. It’s been clearly spelled out in two clinical studies that are, together, called the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS). The second study of the two is an update (with important revisions) of the first.
The first AREDS formula was 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta-carotene, 80 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper per day. The second, updated study nixed beta-carotene, though, because it’s been associated with a higher risk of lung cancer in smokers. It was replaced with two antioxidants—lutein (10 mg) and zeaxanthin (2 mg).
So that does it. You would think that any reputable eye vitamin for AMD would have this mix of nutrients in it. But that is not so, according to a team of researchers from Yale, Penn State and Brown University. The team examined 11 eye vitamins from the five top-selling ocular nutritional supplement brands. Their goal—to compare how well the ingredients matched the winning formula. The results confirm that you should keep up with health news and scrutinize products you buy.
THE RIGHT STUFF
Although it turned out that all of the eye vitamins evaluated did contain the ingredients known to help protect against AMD progression, only four out of the 11 products—various formulations of PreserVision Eye Vitamins manufactured by Bausch & Lomb and Alcon’s ICaps Eye Vitamin AREDS Formula—provided the ingredients in all the proper doses. The remaining seven products left something to be desired. For example, Alcon’s ICaps Eye Vitamin Lutein & Omega-3 Formula had only 3% of the recommended dose of vitamin E and 9% of the recommended doses of vitamin C and zinc, while several other brands skimped on the lutein and zeaxanthin and, overall, provided lower doses of most of the ingredients in the proven formula.
What’s more, the study researchers felt that some of the information found on manufacturers’ websites might be misleading or provide false hope about eye health and AMD. They found that, although many of the products did not contain the proper proportions of the formula established by the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies, the websites claimed that their products were based on the formula. Also, none of the websites specifically stated that, while their products may protect against progression of AMD, they have not been proven to prevent AMD. (They might have a preventive effect, but as a consumer, you have a right to know that this effect has not been proven.)
Now that you know about the scientifically studied vitamin mix for reducing AMD symptoms, make sure to read eye vitamin labels to ensure that yours has the right stuff in the right proportion. Also, don’t rely on the manufacturer’s website and promotional materials for the real skinny on what the supplement can and can’t do. For more information on AMD and the studies that discovered what nutrients are needed to protect your vision, visit the website of the National Eye Institute.