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You’re right to be skeptical, but eye health supplements do offer benefits in certain conditions.
You don’t have to browse the internet for long to find ads for vitamins and supplements that claim to boost eye health. Are these products legit?
Mostly, no. “It is not unreasonable to believe vitamins and supplements can impact eye disease, however there is very limited research in this area to give us solid evidence,” says Memphis-based optometrist Mollie Veteto, O.D.
The best way to improve eye health is to fine-tune your grocery list. Your eyes get the benefits they need through a healthy diet, say most accredited health research organizations including the Cleveland Clinic and NIH. “Eat whole foods in bright colors,” Dr. Veteto says, mentioning the usual suspects of dark leafy greens, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
That said, people with certain eye conditions may derive some benefits from dietary supplements. If you suffer from any of the three conditions that follow, talk to your America’s Best optometrist to determine if a supplement may be right for you.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Supplements can help fill in the gaps for people with AMD, says Stephanie Hubbard, O.D., an optometrist with Crystal Clear Eye Associates, located inside an America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Sarasota, Fla.
AMD is one of the leading causes of vision loss, with 1.8 million people over the age of 40 affected, and an additional 7.3 million at substantial risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Check product labels for “AREDS2 Formulation.” AREDS stands for Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a large 2001 National Eye Institute study that found vitamins C and E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper can lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration. A follow-up study in 2006 slightly changed the formula by eliminating beta-carotene and adding the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
These nutrients are also naturally found in a range of healthy foods, including many vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Some studies suggest that vitamin C may slow the progression of glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve and can lead to tunnel vision. Other studies have found thatginkgo biloba may improve blood flow to the optic nerve and help ease symptoms.
But the National Institutes of Health say that these supplements aren’t actively recommended for eye health, and say early detection and treatment can help protect against serious vision loss.
In addition, high vitamin B intake through diet, particularly leafy greens, has shown some benefit for glaucoma, but B complex supplements have not shown similar benefit, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Veteto says that the omega-3 fatty acids in fresh fish may reduce dry eye symptoms and inflammation of the eyelid, but research on omega-3 supplements has been mixed.
Certain types of Omega-3 DHA and EPA (found in cold water fish) are most helpful to our eyes. Two servings of cold-water fish per week is a good target to add to your current diet.
Also worth noting: Supplements cannot prevent eye disease. Rather than spending money on expensive supplements that aren’t backed by solid research, getting your vitamins from whole foods is the best way to make sure you’re meeting your nutrition needs.
Vitamins and supplements can have very real side effects, including poor interactions with other medicines. It’s important to always talk with your doctor before taking supplements and vitamins and discuss all of your medications, including prescribed and over-the-counter medicines.
If you have questions about your diet and eye health, speak to your America’s Best optometrist about it at your next eye exam.