Thinking about taking a vitamin supplement to help your eyes? Good for you! But which one are you going to choose? There are likely hundreds of companies in the US alone making literally thousands of different products in this category. So, which one should you take? More than likely you don’t want to be taking pills all day and try to get as much nutrition as you from your diet. However, few if any of us eats the proper diet, so supplemental nutrition is important. Let’s see if we can sort some out some of the hype about nutritional supplements.
The first thing you should look for is a product that is a good blend and balance of nutrients that is formulated around the very latest science in nutritional medicine. This is going to take a bit of time considering the number of companies and products that are out there. And it’s unlikely that you’re going to want to learn how to be a biochemist in the process- so how do you know which is best? In this paper I’m going to review some basic concepts for you to use in your search.
One thing to consider is the form of the pill you’re taking. If your choice is a hard-pressed pill, pass on it! Most hard-pressed pills have been found to not break down effectively in the body and might even pass all the way through you intact! A capsule or gelcap are preferable. Liquids and powders are also an effective way to get nutritional supplements absorbed easier as well.
You might have heard the term “enteric coated” by some manufacturers. An enteric coating is a barrier applied to oral medication that controls the location in the digestive system where it is absorbed. Enteric refers to the small intestine; therefore enteric coatings prevent release of medication before it reaches the small intestine. That might have some advantages if you’re taking pills on an empty stomach and don’t want the stomach acids to negatively affect the action of the supplement. However, materials used for enteric coatings may include fatty acids, waxes, and shellac.
A full-spectrum supplement should be designed to slow the progression of chronic degenerative disease, including all diseases of the eye. There should be efficacious amounts of properly balanced fat-soluble vitamins, particularly as it relates to the latest vitamin A and vitamin D research. Additionally, the vitamin A should be Retinol, not beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is unlikely to convert to vitamin A if your body has enough vitamin A reserves (most people in the US have sufficient vitamin A). One study found that beta-carotene actually blocks lutein from getting to the eye, so it might even be one cause of AMD!
A multiple vitamin should contain potent amounts of the full-spectrum of B vitamins for the proper maintenance of homocysteine, specifically B6, B12 and folic acid. Remember that excess of any one B-vitamin form might create a deficiency of the rest, so balance is extremely important where B vitamins are concerned.
A good quality supplement will also contain about 400 IUs of the complete spectrum of Vitamin E with a balanced mixture of both natural d-alpha tocopherol and mixed tocopherol oils containing gamma and delta tocopherols. Recent research has shown that some of the other forms of vitamin E (the tocotrienols) are more effective in supporting cholesterol levels, reducing heart conditions and also for eye support. The “gamma” and “delta” forms of tocotrienol are the specific forms that are most effective.
Supplemental iron has been linked to heart disease, so your supplements should be iron-free, unless you are a birth-age female. Many sources also think that we have enough copper in our current diets, so that copper may not be necessary either.
Any good vitamin supplement should contain the full army of “job-specific” antioxidants that both prevent free-radical damage, as well as neutralize the effects of previous oxidative damage.
The supplement should contain efficacious amounts of eye-specific carotenoids: lutein, pure zeaxanthin, and lycopene.
Regarding minerals, a good supplement will contain the spectrum of minerals in their most bioavailable form to ensure proper cellular bioelectrical and enzymatic response. Here is a listing of the more common minerals and their recommended daily intake amounts (some are in ranges):
Zinc 15-50 mg/day
Selenium- 75-200 mcg/day
MnSOD (zinc, copper and manganese) is vital for intracellular clean up, so be sure your supplement have these minerals in adequate quantities.
So, in summary it seems that you do have some "homework" to do. Taking supplements should not be a decision to take lightly- we're talking about your general and eye health here! Since all nutrients act in harmony with each other, it's best to get a "full spectrum" multiple that includes all the eye health nutrients as well. Happy hunting!