'Eye Health' Supplements: Do the Benefits Justify the Cost?

Brianne N. Hobbs, OD


October 24, 2018

In This Article


The Trials

AREDS also addressed the benefits of antioxidants on cataracts but in an observational rather than an interventional way.[7] The cross-sectional Blue Mountains Eye Study investigated the relationship between cataracts and supplements via a patient questionnaire.[8] The Physicians' Health Study was a longitudinal study that also assessed the relationship between cataracts and supplements.[9] The Beaver Dam Eye Study reported on the relationship between the 5-year incidence of cataracts and supplements.[10]

The Results

  • One observational trial that included only women identified a healthy diet as being associated with a lower risk for cataract development[11]

  • Lutein, zeaxanthin, and B vitamins may decrease the risk for cataracts.[7,12]

  • Large, randomized trials found no benefit to taking vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, or selenium.[13,14]

  • The results are mixed regarding the potential benefit of a multivitamin.[9]

  • Sunlight exposure likely plays a role in the pathogenesis of cataracts, although knowledge of their exact pathogenesis is not fully understood.[15]

The Conversation

  • Cataract surgery is the only treatment for cataracts.

  • No therapy has been proven to prevent or slow the progression of cataracts.

  • Wearing sunglasses may protect against ultraviolet light exposure that can damage the lens.

  • Recommending a multivitamin is probably appropriate, as it may be beneficial and is without adverse effects.

  • Smoking increases the risk of developing cataracts, and patients who smoke should be encouraged to quit.

  • Controlling systemic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, may not directly impact the development of cataracts but does help make patients better surgical candidates.


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