Optimal vision is maintained by a healthy nutrient-rich diet that includes consuming five or more servings of colorful fruits and vegetables daily, along with a minimum of three servings of hearty whole grains and beneficial nuts or oils. But today's diets may not deliver enough nutrition. You don't want to miss a thing, so selecting the best dietary supplements designed to support eye health is crucial.
The US Government's AREDS2 study investigated which of these eye vitamins may best benefit your visual health now and in the future.
AMD & AREDS
You may know someone with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a deterioration of clear central sight that affects millions of Americans. This growing epidemic prompted the government's National Eye Institute (NEI) to launch the Age-Related Eye Disease Study(AREDS) in October, 2001. The result was groundbreaking research that led to significant findings in treating and preventing AMD.
The AREDS study concluded that a supplemental combination of antioxidants and zinc decreased the risk of developing later stages of AMD by 25%. Researchers found that this combination also reduced the chances of losing central vision by 19%.
The NEI later suggested that if eye vitamin supplementation were in widespread use, it could actually prevent vision loss in as many as 300,000 people aged 55+ over a five-year period. With those results, the NEI was more than happy to get to work on:
In 2006, the AREDS2 follow-up study began and in 2014 the results were published. The goal? To determine if an altered combination of select nutrients could slow AMD-related loss of vision even further. Researchers unveiled their findings in 2013, and the study focused particularly on the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Actually, the NEI had considered including both lutein and zeaxanthin in the original AREDS study -- but at that time, neither was available for manufacturing in a research formulation.
Between AREDS and AREDS2, the Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trials (LAST) was completed. This trial gave an early indication that the NEI was correct in its desire to investigate lutein. LAST found that lutein significantly improved the macular pigment density that protects the macula from degeneration. Zeaxanthin was similarly backed by research suggesting it helps to protect the macula from dangerous UVB rays from the sun.
The Omega-3s EPA and DHA have also been shown in several studies to help with AMD. One massive study of 72,000 male and female nurses and doctors over age 50 found that those who ate four servings of Omega-3-rich fish per week had 35% less development of AMD. However, AREDS 2 did not find support for omega 3s against macular degeneration.
AREDS2 recommends the following nutrients in these exact levels:
To ensure quality nutrition that delivers the best possible vision benefits, look for supplements that feature:
Always talk to your doctor before taking supplements. A good eye doctor can help you choose eye vitamins that best suit your needs. If you are a smoker, please be aware that supplements containing Beta-Carotene may increase your risk of lung cancer.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin -- AREDS2 featured nutrients explained in more detail
NEI AMD Page -- Background info on AMD from the National Eye Institute
AMD Facts -- Macular Degeneration statistics, symptoms, research and photos
AREDS2 Summary -- An outline on AREDS2 from the National Institutes of Health
AREDS2 Protocol -- The specific research protocol of the AREDS2 study. Link opens a PDF document.