January 2015

Eye Health Supplements Often Missing Ingredients with Supportive Evidence

Supplements marketed for eye health are often lacking ingredients with supportive scientific evidence of benefit.

Deficiencies in antioxidants have been noted in some people with age-related vision loss. Antioxidants may protect against age-related vision loss by preventing free radicals or unstable oxygen from damaging the retina.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was a major clinical trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute. Results were published in 2001. AREDS researchers recommended that patients at risk of developing advanced age-related vision loss should consider taking antioxidant and zinc supplements. The AREDS formulation is specific and different from a regular daily multivitamin. The original AREDS formula contains 15 mg beta-carotene, 500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU Vitamin E, 80 mg zinc, and 2 mg copper. The same research group completed a second study on eye health in 2006 (AREDS2), and provided an updated formulation of 500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 10 mg lutein, 2 mg zeaxanthin, 80 mg zinc, and 2 mg copper.

In a recent study, researchers analyzed five of the top-selling eye health nutritional supplement brands in the United States based on sales from June 2011 to June 2012.  Eleven products were ultimately reviewed to determine if the ingredients in these products compared with the recommendations made from the AREDS and AREDS2.

The researchers found that only four of the 11 products, or 36%, contained ingredients in doses equivalent to AREDS or AREDS2 recommendations, while six of the eleven products included some information about AREDS on their website. Four of the supplements that did not contain AREDS or AREDS2 formulas stated that supplements are important for maintaining eye health. All of the supplements made claims to support, protect or help eye health.

The authors concluded that the majority of the top-selling eye health supplement brands do not contain ingredient formulas similar to the AREDS or AREDS2 recommendations, despite product label claims that suggest they are beneficial for vision and eye health.

For more information about specific nutritional supplements, please visit Natural Standard’s Commercial Products Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Yong JJ, Scott IU, Greenberg PB. Ocular Nutritional Supplements: Are Their Ingredients and Manufacturers' Claims Evidence-Based? Ophthalmology. 2014 Nov 20.

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