Could supplements actually damage your eyesight?



The results of a recent case report have revealed that supplementing for good eye health may actually have a detrimental, rather than beneficial, effect. Ophthalmologists often prescribe daily nutritional supplements to help prevent or slow vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But what happens when you increase the recommended dose to increase your protection?


In the article Crystalline Maculopathy Associated with High-Dose Lutein Supplementation, principal investigator Paul Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D discusses a patient referred to the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah for crystal deposits in the macular region of the retina in both eyes. The patient had no AMD or vision problems. However, it was learned that for the past eight years, the patient took a daily lutein supplement (20 mg) in addition to a diet rich in lutein, which included a broccoli, kale, spinach, and avocado smoothie every morning; she was therefore consuming much more than twice the recommended dose of lutein for an AMD patient (10 mg per day).




Lutein plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyes, particularly with regard to AMD. Together, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin ameliorate light and oxygen damage and help prevent age-related cellular and tissue deterioration in the eye. In fact, the effects of lutein and other antioxidants in mitigating early onset age-related ocular and neurological diseases have been well documented. Since the human body cannot produce carotenoids, they must be added to the body by eating plants or taking supplements.


Exceeding the recommended dosage for supplements could have detrimental effects.
Exceeding the recommended dosage for supplements could have detrimental effects.


But how much is too much? “When we looked at the patient’s carotenoid levels in serum, skin, and the retina, all measurements were at least two times greater than carotenoid levels in patients not taking nutritional supplements,” said Bernstein. “The patient quit taking the lutein supplement, but maintained her diet rich in lutein, and, after seven months, the crystals in the right eye disappeared.”


The results are worrying, as many of take over the counter supplements without a second thought as to how these may be interacting with our diet, or how much of which vitamin we’re ingesting. The case report must followed up by a larger clinical trial before the results can be considered conclusive, but it serves as an indicator that there may be negative effects from consuming lutein considerably higher than the recommended dose.




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