Vitamins and minerals are packed with benefits for bones and teeth, but how effective are they at protecting eyesight during the aging process?
Sally Squires, who writes for the Lean Plate Club™ blog, told WTOP that the results are a bit of a mixed bag.
Studies by the National Institute for Health’s National Eye Institute showed that taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc could slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration in some cases, Squires said.
“It is a very big cause of blindness as you grow older, and right now it afflicts about 11 million Americans annually,” she said. “By 2050, those rates are expected to double.”
According to Squires, the studies did not show that taking extra supplements and nutrients cured or treated macular degeneration, but helped manage the symptoms in some research groups. Those who saw the most benefits were people with intermediate stage age-related macular degeneration in both eyes or advanced age-related macular degeneration in one eye but not the other. Those in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration did not benefit from taking supplements, and the supplements did not stop macular degeneration from starting.
Squires also said that if you want to boost your vitamin intake to protect against macular degeneration, your standard diet alone is not going to cut it.
“You really can’t get these benefits from food alone, though there are ways you can enhance your eyesight with foods,” Squires said. “In this case, if you’re really trying to protect against macular degeneration, you’ve got to go with these vitamins and minerals.”
However, before you go storming off to your nearest pharmacy, Squires recommends talking to a physician because there are risks associated with increasing the amount of vitamins you’re taking.
“If you are a smoker or former smoker, beta-carotene — you can find it in carrots or pumpkins — when scientists gave this to smokers and former smokers in large amounts, they actually found it increased the risk of lung cancer,” Squires said.
Squires recommendation is to talk to your doctor about all of the supplements, minerals or herbal medications you may be taking before taking more vitamins and minerals, as these could cause a reaction and lead to negative health effects.
“That includes how much caffeine you’re drinking and how much alcohol you have,” Squires said. “Because they do interact, and it’s really important to get a handle on it.”