As part of the natural aging process or due to heredity, many older adults face vision loss that can significantly impact independence and mobility. While a healthy diet and regular eye exams may help prevent and treat macular degeneration, seniors should be careful about putting too much faith in supplements that may not contain the active ingredients at the levels they boast. With a high price tag for some vision supplements, consumers may not be getting even close to what they paid for or gain the benefits they anticipated.
According to a recent CTV Health News report, researchers at the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland tested 46 products sold in Europe, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada to lower the risk for developing macular degeneration. Antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin have been shown to reduce the risk for macular degeneration by up to 25 percent.
More than 2 million Canadians over the age of 50 are affected by macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. But of the 11 products tested that are sold in Canada, researchers found that 64 percent failed to meet the guidelines set by Health Canada for Natural Health Products. These products had less than 80 percent of the active ingredients claimed on their label, making them far less effective than consumers would expect.
Because eyesight is so vital to a healthy and active lifestyle, many seniors who begin to experience macular degeneration are eager to shell out top dollar for carotenoid supplements to help slow or prevent further decline. But consumers may only be getting a 10 to 15 percent risk reduction if the supplement doesn’t contain ingredients at the levels manufacturers advertise.
Researchers also discovered that the formulation of the supplements played a role in whether or not they passed the test. Powder formulations appeared to degrade over a short period of time. Of the supplements that passed testing, all were softgel capsules other than one tablet brand. Oxidation and exposure to light are believed to speed the degradation of the antioxidants, making powders much less potent within just a few weeks of opening the product.
If you are taking a supplement for macular degeneration, researchers advise patients to continue with their current product until Health Canada investigates the study more thoroughly. If available, patients may want to consider switching to a softgel formulation that may be more effective, and easier to swallow.
Learn more about the effects of lutein supplementation on age-related macular degeneration by following this link to a recent study, published in the journal Plos One.