Even if consumers can actually read the tiny print on the labels of eye health supplements, they might not be taking the appropriate formula of ingredients recommended by researchers to protect vision.
Top researchers analyzed the contents of 11 leading eye health products and found that most do not contain the proven formula of ingredients, and all have misleading claims. The study results have been published online in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Sales of eye supplements surged after the landmark Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found in 2001 that a certain formula of nutrients with high doses of zinc and antioxidants could slow some cases of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older people. A follow-up study published in 2001, AREDS2, found that the formula was still effective when beta-carotene, which had been linked to increase cancer risk in smokers, was replaced with lutein and zeaxanthin.
Researchers from Yale-New Haven Hospital, Waterbury Hospital, Penn State College of Medicine, Providence VA Medical Center and Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University identified the five top-selling brands based on market research collected from June 2011 to June 2012, and analyzed the brands' 11 products. Only four of the products got the dosages right, according to the study.
The majority of top-selling ocular nutritional supplements did not contain the identical ingredient dosages of the AREDS or AREDS2 formula and “had product description claims that lacked level 1 evidence, underscoring the importance of ophthalmologists educating their patients on the evidence-based role of nutritional supplements in the management of eye health,” according to a release about the research from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
"With so many vitamins out there claiming to support eye health, it's very easy for patients to be misled into buying supplements that may not bring about the desired results," the study’s first author Jennifer J. Yong, M.D., said in the release. "Our findings underscore the importance of ophthalmologists educating patients that they should only take the proven combination of nutrients and doses for AMD according to guidelines established by AREDS and AREDS2.”