Should You Take Vision Supplements?


Good nutrition is essential to eye health, as it is to the health of all our organs. But don’t take dietary supplements claiming to “support,” “protect,” or “promote” eye health in hopes of preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or cataracts—or for general eye health. There’s no evidence that any supplement can do that, contrary to what the labels and ads may imply. For instance, a 2017 Cochrane Review concluded that taking vitamin E or beta carotene supplements will not prevent or delay the onset of AMD.

Zinc, too, is essential to good vision, but supplements have not been shown to prevent vision loss. Herbal supplements, such as bilberry, often combined with high doses of vitamins, have never been shown to protect against disease or improve vision.

The only substantiated supplement claim is that the formula used in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, known as AREDS—and the slightly different formula used in the follow-up study, AREDS2—can reduce progression of AMD in people who have an intermediate stage of the disease or a severe stage in one eye. The formula had no effect on the development or progression of cataracts.

Bottom line: If you have AMD, your eye-care professional has probably talked with you about AREDS and AREDS2 supplements. Bausch & Lomb holds the patent for both AREDS formulas (marketed as PreserVision), but there are copycat products that may not contain the correct amounts of the ingredients. This array of products can be confusing, so ask your doctor for specific guidance.