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Eye Health Center

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Supplements for Vision and Healthy Eyes

Should You Take High Doses of Vision Supplements?

For people with or at risk for some eye conditions, high-dose vision supplements may help slow or prevent these conditions.

For example, the National Eye Institute released the findings of its Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The results showed that high doses of antioxidants vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), and beta-carotene (15 mg/25,000 IU), along with zinc (8 mg), reduced the risk of vision loss from advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in some, but not all, people with this disease. The only patients who benefited were those with:

  • Intermediate AMD or
  • Advanced AMD in just one eye

Ask your doctor if you're in one of those categories.

However, the ingredients of vision supplements may change with the completion of the AREDS2 study. This study sought to see if adding other vitamins and mineral to the supplement would improve results of the AREDS. The first addition was omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), and the second was a combination of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are found in leafy green vegetables and highly colored fruits and vegetables. The research showed:

  • Beta-carotene did not lower the risk of progression of AMD.
  • Adding omega-3 to the AREDS formula did not lower the risk of progression of AMD.
  • The AREDS formula was still found to be protective with less zinc added.
  • People who took a formula with lutein and zeaxanthin (and who may not have been taking enough in their diet) showed further improvement with the new AREDS formula.
  • In general, people who took lutein and zeaxanthin instead of beta-carotene had more of a benefit.

This supplement regimen, however, was not shown to prevent the onset of AMD, slow its progression in early stages, or improve vision already lost. If you or someone you care about has AMD in one of the two categories listed, an eye doctor may recommend taking a vision supplement. Note: The study also included 2 mg copper to replace copper lost when you take zinc.

In another example, studies have shown that deficiencies of antioxidants contribute to the development of chronic dry eye syndrome. Nutritional supplements containing the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are available to help restore and maintain tear formation and eye lubrication. Again, check with your doctor first.

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