Supplements that support eye health: do they really make a difference?

In my previous post I talked about foods that promote good eye health. But can you do any better by taking supplements that support eye health? In addition, will they have any effect on short sight? In this post, I hope to be able to answer both these questions for you.

Perception: fresh food is better than supplements

It is a common perception that it is always preferable to get your vitamins and minerals from fresh food. Supplements are always seen as the back up if you do not have a healthy diet. Or a diet that might be healthy but lacking something that you can only obtain through a supplement. But is that always the case? What about where the eyes are concerned? Can fresh food supply us all the lutein, zeaxantin and meso-zeaxantin that our eyes need? Especially when we are trying to give our eyes a boost to help them see further. Well, I discuss below some very interesting scientific research. It was carried out on the BBC’s ‘Trust me I’m a doctor’ program and it addressed this very topic.

Research into supplements:

Prior to this research, the presenter’s blood was checked for the level of these compounds in his blood. He was tested to see how much of the macular pigments he already had in his eyes. He also had an eye exam. The presenter took supplements containing the three macular pigments (lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin) every day for 12 weeks. As I said in my previous post on ‘foods that promote good eye health‘, these pigments are important as they support the part of the retina called the macula which enables your eyes to focus clearly.

These pigments are not produced by the body except for meso-zeaxantin.  But for this the body still needs lutein. It does not produce lutein itself. So we need to get these pigments to our eyes either though the food we eat or by taking supplements. After the 12 week course, the presenter was tested again in the same way as he had been prior to taking the supplements. The results were very encouraging. There was:

  1. an increase in the macular pigment density,
  2. an increase of these compounds in his blood and
  3. there was especially a marked improvement in his perception of yellow/blue colours and his night vision.

Professor John Nolan at the Waterford Institute of Technology in South East Ireland carried out the same experiment with 100 volunteers but over a longer period (1 year). The volunteers saw similar positive changes in the amounts of these pigments in their eyes. And there was improvement in their eyesight. So it is good to know that the supplements really work.

The Difference Between Food and Supplements was Marked

This was in marked contrast to results of the scientific experiment the Professor carried out with volunteers daily drinking a smoothie. This contained food with high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. The volunteers drank this every day over a period of five weeks. After the five week period, it was found the lutein levels in their blood had nearly doubled. However, there was no change in zeaxanthin levels, macular pigment levels or improvements in eyesight. I don’t know why they did not carry out this scientific experiment over the same period of time as with the supplements. I don’t know. It may be the case that it takes some time for these pigments to get in to the tissues of the eye. However, I don’t know about you but I think I find it far more convenient to take a tablet each day. I don’t have the time to make a smoothie with quite a number of different ingredients every day.

Which supplements to take?

Obviously, then we need to look for those supplements that contain all three of the compounds (lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin). I see on Amazon (the UK version: www.amazon.co.uk) that there is Macu Pro advanced for sale. This contains 4 months supply (120 capsules) of all three of these compounds. They also contain blueberry (bilberry) extract and on top of this essential vitamins and minerals scientifically proven to help maintain normal vision. These capsules have received a 4.7 out of 5 stars review on Amazon.

Over at Amazon.com, there is Vision Max Saffron (Plus Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Meso Zeaxanthin + Grape Seed Extract Plus AREDS 2 Vitamin, Minerals). So as you can see from the extremely long title it contains pretty much you could ask for in supplement for your eyes. By the way, AREDS stands for Age Related Eye Disease Study. The initial study (AREDS) by the National  Institute of Health in the US conducted in 2001 was followed up by another study in 2013 (hence the AREDS2 mentioned in the title). The studies showed the positive effects supplements had on those suffering from age related macular degeneration (AMD). In the AREDS2 study they dropped beta-carotene from their recommendation because of its link to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. You can read more about these studies at www.brightfocus.org

I have done a shortlist of the best supplements available on Amazon.co.uk and can be viewed here. And another shortlist for the best supplements available on Amazon.com and this can be viewed here.

What is the intake?

Usually you can find the supplements that contain all three of the compounds in the one tablet. They can be taken daily. So there is not the problem of having to take one supplement for one compound and then taking another supplement for another. There has to be a daily and ongoing intake of these supplements to have an effect on the levels in the blood and the eyes themselves. So it is no good taking one and then taking the next one three weeks later! I’m prone to doing this. Or daily having the supplement for three months and then expect to see the ongoing effects three months on after that. So it can be quite a long-term investment and a discipline to keep it up especially if you are not used to taking pills or supplements already. But it seems from the research that such an investment in your eyes will pay off later on.

Supplements are the way to go

So the scientific research does suggest that supplements with these three compounds will provide some protection. Although it can not prove it will provide total protection against disease and degeneration in the eyes. It also suggests that supplements can provide a marked improvement in a person’s eyesight. This can be in a relatively short period of time. Indeed, the experiments undertaken indicated that these compounds reach the eye tissues more effectively by taking a daily supplement.

Thanks for reading this post. If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below.

 

 

 

Leave a comment