This article is shared with permission from our friends at Lifetime Daily.
Q: I keep seeing ads for a vitamin supplement that’s been shown to protect against macular degeneration. Should everyone over a certain age be taking this product?
A: Unlike many nutritional supplements, the eye health formulations you’ve been seeing actually have some good science to back them up. Although there are several brands out there, most are based on a specific cocktail of nutrients that was tested in a pair of clinical trials, known as the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS), conducted by the National Institutes of Health.
In these trials, a combination of vitamins C, E and various carotenoids (plant-based antioxidants from the vitamin A family) were found to reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration by 25-30%. That’s a big deal when you consider that age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness in people over 65.
The strength of this finding has no doubt fueled the aggressive marketing of these supplements, both to consumers and to doctors, who are encouraged to sell eye health supplements directly to their patients. (There is quite a bit of argument within the medical profession about whether or not this is actually ethical, but that’s a different story.)
But is this really a supplement that everyone over a certain age should be taking? I’m not so sure.
A closer look at the study results reveals that the benefits were seen mostly in people who had a very low intake of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, this describes the majority of North Americans. However, for those who consumed the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, taking the supplement didn’t make nearly as big a difference.
In addition to protecting your eyesight, diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, obesity and diabetes.
If you already eat a healthy diet, including plenty of colorful fruits and veggies, these supplements are probably an unnecessary expense. And if you aren’t eating your fruits and vegetables, I’d like to argue that spending your money on fresh produce instead of a supplement is a much better investment in your health. In addition to protecting your eyesight, diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
Nutrients that Promote Eye Health
Here are a few easy (and delicious) ways to get more eye-preserving nutrients into your diet:
1. Lettuce and Spinach
Instead of the usual romaine, choose a salad mix that contains both lettuce and spinach (which is particularly high in carotenoids).
2. Bell Peppers
Snack on orange, yellow and red pepper slices. In addition to being ridiculously sweet and delicious, they’re packed with carotenoids.
Break out of your banana rut and add some fresh kiwi to your fruit bowl. Kiwis are an excellent source of both vitamin C and carotenoids.
4. Egg Yolk
Stop throwing away those egg yolks! Not only do they taste great, but those sunny yolks are rich in carotenoids. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that older adults who ate one egg per day had higher levels of carotenoids in their blood, with no adverse effect on cholesterol levels.
5. Kale Chips
Try kale chips as a delicious (and carotenoid-rich) alternative to potato chips. You can make them yourself or look for them in the natural foods section of your grocer.
Even without selecting specific fruits and vegetables, simply eating five or more servings a day of a variety of fresh produce will go a long way toward protecting your precious eyesight, and a whole lot more.