If you are getting older and you want to preserve your vision, an eye vitamin is an easy and effective way to sustain healthy vision.
Several large clinical studies have confirmed that eye vitamins can slow or prevent macular degeneration, which is a significant cause of vision loss in older adults.
In modern supplement research, eye vitamins have been one of the biggest success stories—careful selection of multiple ingredients often goes awry because of unanticipated interactions among the ingredients in a supplement, but in the case of eye vitamins, the clinical trials have been a resounding success.
Read on to find out how eye vitamins work to protect your vision.
Eye vitamin benefits
1. Taking an eye vitamin is one of the best things you can do to ensure that your vision stays strong as you get older
Vision loss, especially through macular degeneration, is one of the biggest causes of a loss of quality of life in people as they age.
The right combination of vitamins and minerals can nourish and protect your eyesight, ensuring that you can live life to the fullest even as you get older.
2. An eye vitamin can protect your vision from degrading as you age
Based on a wealth of scientific literature, the National Institutes of Health launched a major clinical trial in the mid-1990s that tested a new vitamin and mineral supplement on the rate of advanced macular degeneration, which is one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults over 50 (1).
This study used a combination of several vitamins and minerals that were known to be critical for proper functioning of the eyes: beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper.
This supplement was prepared and tested against a placebo at eleven different clinics, enrolling over 3000 participants (2). These decisions were based on earlier research which showed promising results with each of these nutrients individually.
The participants in this double-blind clinical trial were followed for over six years and the incidence of macular degeneration was recorded.
The results showed that the supplement conferred a 28% decreased risk of macular degeneration, and moreover, this occurred without any statistically significant increase in reported side effects compared to placebo.
3. Eye vitamins are particularly useful if you are at risk for macular degeneration
If you know you’re at risk (for example, if you’ve had family members with macular degeneration), an eye vitamin should definitely be a part of your supplementation routine as you get older.
Other risk factors for macular degeneration include obesity, smoking, and cardiovascular disease.
4. Eye vitamins may also benefit other indicators of ocular health, but there is less evidence
One downside of the intense focus on using eye vitamins for macular degeneration is that we know less about whether eye vitamins also help slow or prevent some of the other age-related changes in vision, like the loss of close-up vision.
Nevertheless, because the ingredients in eye vitamins are known to have a powerful biological effect on the eyes (thanks to their anti-macular degeneration effect), there is good reason to believe that they may be effective for other eye conditions and overall eye function as well.
5. Eye vitamins should contain lutein and zeaxanthin for optimal results.
While the results of this first trial, termed the AREDS study (Age-Related Eye Disease Study), were impressive, scientists saw room for improvement.
First, research had come out in the interim time between when the study was launched and when the results were known that indicated that high beta-carotene intake was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer among people who smoke, so the researchers wanted to rework the formula to make it safe for smokers to take.
This was especially important considering that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for macular degeneration in its own right.
Researchers replaced beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin, two related compounds that appeared capable of providing the same benefits as beta-carotene without the risks to smokers.
6. Zinc is important for eye health, but the dosage does not need to be very high
Some experts also suggested lowering the dose of zinc, and emerging research suggested that omega 3 fatty acids could provide additional benefits for preserving eyesight.
Because of this, a second trial, termed AREDS 2, was launched (3). This study used over 4000 participants and tested variants of the original AREDS eye vitamin formula.
After testing four different variants of the eye vitamin supplement, the researchers concluded that replacing beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin was just as beneficial as the original beta carotene version.
The reduction in zinc content did not alter the effectiveness of the supplement, and the addition of omega 3 fatty acids did not further improve the risk reduction for vision degeneration in old age.
7. The AREDS2 formula is the current gold standard for eye health
This formula includes zinc, copper, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and vitamin E is the gold standard for eye health
While it’s likely that further research will uncover new ingredients or a better-optimized formulation, the AREDS2 supplement recipe is the best we’ve got right now.
As such, all the best eye vitamins will contain at least the key ingredients used in this clinical trial. You’ll want to make sure your eye vitamin follows the dosage guidelines established in the scientific research for optimal results.
Eye vitamin side effects
Incredibly, even though supplements based on the AREDS formulation are very effective at protecting your vision as you get older, they don’t seem to cause any significant side effects when used at the recommended dosage.
Eye vitamins have no higher rate of side effects than a placebo. There were mild side effects reported in the clinical trials, but the rate of these side effects was no different than the rate of people reporting “side effects” from the placebo!
If you use tobacco, you should not take an eye vitamin with vitamin A. One important note concerns eye vitamin formulations that contain vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. These are fine for most people, but anyone who uses tobacco should not take a supplement that contains beta carotene or vitamin A.
This is because this supplement has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer (4). A major clinical trial on using beta-carotene in people at high risk for lung cancer was actually halted almost two years early after the researchers observed that those in the treatment group were being diagnosed with lung cancer at an increased rate compared to the placebo group.
Eye vitamin dosage
Though rare in supplement research, the massive clinical trials on eye vitamins provide crystal-clear instructions on the optimal daily dosage of each of the most effective eye vitamins (5).
Check closely for the following vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, and zeaxanthin doses. Vitamin C and vitamin E should be taken at 500 mg and 400 mg each, while the zinc content can be between 25 and 80 mg.
Copper, at a dose of 2 mg, should not be skipped, and the formulation is rounded out with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin.
These vitamins and minerals, at these dosages, should be split into two equal doses, taken in the morning and in the evening, like eye drops.
Eye vitamin benefits FAQ
Q: Do eye vitamins really work?
A: Yes, we can say with a strong degree of confidence that eye vitamins do what they are designed to do—slow or prevent the progression of age-related vision loss.
In particular, gold-standard clinical trials have demonstrated a significant reduction in macular degeneration in older adults that can be attributed directly to the effects of eye vitamins. All of that being said, it’s important to point out that some people have a distorted impression of what eye vitamins are really supposed to do.
They’re not going to completely reverse vision loss, and they also aren’t going to eliminate the need for you to wear your glasses—these are just a supplement, not LASIK surgery.
However, the results in favor of eye vitamins are some of the strongest findings when it comes to major studies on using simple, over the counter supplements to prevent serious health problems.
Q: Can you get vitamins for eye floaters?
A: While eye vitamins have been studied for a variety of eye conditions, including cataracts and macular degeneration, floaters have not been studied as one of the conditions that can be helped by an eye vitamin.
You might find anecdotal reports that certain eye vitamins help with floaters, but there are no clinical trials that support this claim just yet. Floaters are caused by slight imperfections in a transparent portion of the eye. In most cases, they do not require treatment, though it is possible to treat severe cases with laser therapy or surgery.
Q: Can you get vitamins for your eyes in fruits and vegetables?
A: Many of the important ingredients in eye vitamins can be found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is, of course, found widely in citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables are great sources of vitamin E.
Zinc and copper can likewise be found legumes, and beta carotene is best-known for its high concentration in carrots. However, getting the right ratios of all of these vitamins and minerals is tricky if you are relying fully on fruits and vegetables to maintain your eye health.
While a poor diet with few fruits and vegetables is known to be a risk factor for age related vision loss, the best solution from scientific research is still to take an eye vitamin that provides the right ratios of vitamins and minerals to stave off vision loss.
Related: Our best eye vitamin picks
Eye vitamins are an absolute must-have for adults over 50. They’re a proven method of preventing macular degeneration as you get older, and their ingredients have been fine-tuned through a series of massive clinical studies.
The robust benefits of eye vitamins make them a great option for older adults who value preserving their vision as they age.