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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Dietary Supplements for Eye Conditions: What the Science Says

April 2017

Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 
Dietary Supplements for Eye Conditions

Cataract

In the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2), neither omega-3 fatty acids nor lutein/zeaxanthin, when added to the original AREDS formulation (vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and zinc), had any overall effect on the need for cataract surgery. However, when the participants were ranked into five equal-sized groups according to their dietary lutein/zeaxanthin intake, supplementation with lutein/zeaxanthin appeared to make a difference for the group with the lowest dietary levels. Within that group, lutein/zeaxanthin was associated with a 32 percent reduction in progression to cataract surgery.

Although there are some data from observational research that dietary vitamin B12 supplements may slow or prevent cataract development, no dietary supplements have been recommended for the treatment of cataracts.

Glaucoma

Current data do not support the use of dietary supplementation with vitamins A, C, and E as glaucoma treatments.

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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