Antioxidants and vision health: facts and fiction
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A number of nutritional supplements containing antioxidants are advertised for better vision health. Do they benefit the average consumer? The literature was examined for the effectiveness of antioxidants for human eye health, and for the intricacies in collection of such evidence. The following diseases were considered: cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, eye infections, and uveitis. The literature indicates that antioxidant supplements plus lutein have a reasonable probability of retarding AMD. For glaucoma, such supplements were ineffectual in some studies but useful in others. In some studies, antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables were also useful for protection against glaucoma. For diabetic retinopathy, antioxidant supplements may have a small benefit, if any, but only as an adjunct to glycemic control. In very high-risk premature retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa, antioxidant supplements may be beneficial but those with excess Vitamin E should be avoided. For cataract, there is no evidence for an advantage of such nutritional supplements. However, lubricant drops containing N-acetylcarnosine may be helpful in initial stages of the disease. For eye infections and other causes of uveitis, antioxidants have not been found useful. We recommend that a diet high in antioxidant rich foods should be developed as a habit from an early age. However, when initial signs of vision health deterioration are observed, the appropriate nutritional supplement products may be recommended but only to augment the primary medical treatments.
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