You may have heard about recent research suggesting that certain nutrients can help delay or prevent eye problems and disease. You may also have heard a lot of claims for over-the-counter (OTC) vision supplements containing these nutrients -- and claims for others that have not been tested in clinical studies.
So what should you believe? What can you do to protect your eye health and eyesight using vision supplements? Here is information to help you decide.
As our population ages, vision loss from eye diseases is increasing.
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI):
About 3.3 million Americans aged 40 or older are blind or have low vision. This is about 1 in every 28 people.
By 2020, that number could be 5.5 million -- a 60% increase.
NEI has identified the most common eye diseases in people over age 40 as:
Age-related macular degeneration
Diabetic eye disease
To catch eye conditions early and help...
Important: Your doctor is your first resource for information about your health. Regardless of dosage, supplements are not a cure for health problems or a substitute for medication your doctor has recommended. Always check with your doctor before beginning to take any dietary supplement, including vision supplements.
Vision Supplements in Multivitamins
Before you ask your doctor about taking mega-doses of vision supplements, take a look at your multivitamin, if you use one. You'll probably find you're already taking several of the following nutrients for healthy eyes. If not, look for these nutrients, in at least these amounts, when you buy a multivitamin or supplement:
If you can't find a single product that contains all or most of these nutrients, they are available individually.
Read the Labels!
As with any prepared food you buy, read the labels on supplements to be sure you're getting what you want. Here are some tips:
Be sure the product you buy is fresh: Check expiration dates.
The bottle should be sealed for your protection. If it isn't, or if the seal is broken, don't buy it.
Look for a reputable manufacturer as quality can vary widely.
If you're prone to stomach upset, capsules may be a better choice than tablets, which are harder for your system to absorb.
Consider organic vision supplements. You may pay more, but the quality is often better.
Avoid supplements containing fillers, ingredients used to bulk up products so they "look like more." These include wheat, corn, and dairy products, which could cause digestive or allergic problems.
If fish oil is listed as a source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, the label should state that it has been produced in a manner that eliminates contaminants, particularly mercury.
The FDA does regulate dietary supplements, but treats them like food rather than medications; unlike drug manufacturers, the makers of supplements don't have to show their products are safe or effective before selling them. The FDA can get a supplement removed from the market, though. And supplement manufacturers must maintain certain standards (called GMP) that are similar to those for pharmaceutical makers.