An article in Nutrition Action Health Letter (May 2016) caught my eye. It says that one out of five Americans in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s report that they take supplements for their eyes. If you have visited a pharmacy lately, you can plainly see how companies are taking advantage of the above age group concerned about declining vision. But do the supplements actually work? Of course, they all say they do. Ocuvite and I-Caps, for instance, claim to.

Here’s what the latest science shows. If you’re nearsighted, farsighted, or have glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, over-the-counter pills are a waste of money. But they may help if your concerned about cataracts or have age-related macular degeneration.

For cataracts, lutein or a multivitamin with lutein might help. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the lens and in the macula, which is in the central part of the retina and the most vulnerable to sunlight damage. Lutein absorbs the harmful light from the sun which protects the lens, retina, and other eye tissues. Aim for up to 20 mg daily in supplement form. I like to get it from foods. By far the best foods are dark, leafy greens, but good amounts also come from Romaine lettuce, frozen peas, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, broccoli, and asparagus.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50 and older. The AREDS 2 formula is for you. In two US government-funded trials, a combination of lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E, zinc and copper slowed the progression of macular degeneration, but only only if it was already at an intermediate or advance stage (not cured). AREDS 2 does not prevent macular degeneration from developing in the first place. The best ways to protect your vision? See below.

1). Eat lutein-rich foods

2). Don’t smoke

3). Lose excess eight

4). Walk, bike, or run. The more the better

5). Keep blood sugar and blood pressure under control

6). Wear sunglasses

7). Get your eyes checked every one or two years

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.