AREDS2: Do Supplements Lower Cataract Risk?

June 14, 2013 | All Posts, Cataract Healing, Cataract Surgery, Cataract Treatment

The long-awaited follow-up to the 2001 AREDS study, AREDS2 determined that a specific handful of supplements did not lower the risk for cataracts developing.

This wasn’t necessarily a surprise. The first AREDS study also found no effect on developing cataracts.

In AREDS1, the supplements vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper were studied. In AREDS2, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) and lutein and zeaxanthin were added to those and tested.

You know how skeptical I am of these large studies, some backed by major pharmaceutical companies. It’s not that they’re necessarily faulty, but you have to look at the way the trials are structured and conducted before you can really assess conclusions.

In AREDS1, half the subjects were also taking a daily multivitamin, but researchers never looked to see if those on the multi fared better than those who weren’t! In AREDS2, 89 percent of the subjects were also given a multivitamin (Centrum Silver) and 50 percent of them were smokers!


In the United States, 1 out of 5 people smoke. It begs the question: Why would scientists involved in AREDS2 include in their research group so many unhealthy people? How odd? It’s certainly going to depress any potentially positive results.

Dr. Gary Price Todd, the ophthalmologist who pioneered nutritional supplementation for eye problems (and the original developer of the EYEMAX-plus Vision & Body Formula) refused to treat people who continued to smoke for three reasons:

1.? Among many other negative effects, smoking reduces blood flow and circulation to the body – and particularly to the eyes and visual system. That’s the exact opposite of a primary reason why supplements work – they help to increase blood flow, circulation and nutrient supply.

2. People who smoked were not going to respond as well to treatment and Dr. Todd didn’t want anybody to put the responsibility for that lack of results on his methods, when it squarely belonged on the shoulders of the smokers.

3. Playing an active role in your own health is crucial to getting better. You have to be an active partner in your health. Continuing to smoke demonstrates the opposite – a passive mentality that says, “What I do doesn’t matter to my health. Doctor, it’s your job to fix me.”

None of us is perfect. We can all do more to make ourselves healthier. I’m not on a particular tirade against smokers (many of whom struggle with the habit), it’s just not healthy and ill-advised for those struggling with eye problems.

The role that vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can play in eye health is still a partially open question. Nobody knows with absolute certainty what dosage levels and what ratios between nutrients is the ideal formulation.

I’m among the first who believes more thorough research is needed. But let’s do it right! The thousands of individual success stories and the preponderance of the research demand it. (Read some of our other posts.)

AREDS2 researchers also cautioned that their results (or lack thereof) might be from insufficient doses, too short a treatment time, or both. So they, too, have skepticism about the thoroughness of the study.

I agree with them on that!

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