Vision & Vitamins: What is really in your vision supplement?

Do you know what is in that herbal pill or vitamin you are swallowing or if it will really help?  The American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO) recently published a study that compared ingredients in top selling brands of supplements marketed for macular degeneration.  The Age-Related Eye Disease Study did show evidence that a formula called the AREDS and now the AREDS2 did lower the risk of vision loss from macular degeneration for some people.  The 11 top selling brands of ocular nutritional supplements in the United States were studied were reviewed for ingredients and manufacturers claims.  All of these vitamins contained some of the ingredients from the AREDS or AREDS2 formulas, but none of them contained all the ingredients.  According to the study all of the ocular supplement marketing included claims that the products support, protect, help, or promote vision and eye health even though there is no proven benefit in using supplements for primary prevention of eye diseases (the Age-Related Eye Disease Study was done in patients with macular degeneration and the formulas studied were intended to prevent further vision loss rather than prevent macular degeneration from starting).

Health Canada has a license program that provides consumers with some assurance that vitamins and supplements are manufactured correctly and contain the ingredients that are listed on the product.  These Licensed Natural Health Products will have an eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. Products with a NPN or DIN-HM marking on their label have been reviewed by Health Canada and found to be safe, effective and of high quality according to their recommended conditions of use.

Should you take vitamins or supplements to prevent eye diseases?  There are some scientific studies that show some vitamins and supplements might be helpful and other studies that show that these products do not help prevent eye diseases – and in some cases scientific studies have linked supplements like beta-carotene to an increased risk of cancer.  There are also numerous reports in the scientific journals of harmful contaminants in unregulated supplements from arsenic to steroids. The bottom line is that vitamins and supplements may not prevent eye disease so you may be wasting your money and products without an NPN or DIN-HM in Canada have not been assessed by Health Canada.  If you take other medications be sure to talk to your pharmacists to be sure that supplements will not interfere or create dangerous interactions.  So if you choose to take nutritional supplements do your homework to be sure you aren’t putting yourself at risk by taking certain products.

There are other ways to prevent eye disease and vision loss that don’t involve buying ocular nutritional supplements.  Keep in mind that anything that is good for your heart is good for your eyes.

1. Don’t Smoke

2. Exercise

3. See your family doctor for regular check ups including blood sugar and blood pressure checks.

4. Eat your carrots – and other deeply colored fruits like blueberries and citrus and veggies like leafy greens, as well as nuts like almonds, eggs, and fish

5. Get your eyes checked regularly and follow up as recommended by your ophthalmologist or optometrist

 

If you have questions about laser vision correction or wish to book a complimentary evaluation with Dr. Anderson Penno, contact Western Laser Eye Associates.

 

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