Eye the label before you buy

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In the 80s, singer Bonnie Tyler topped the charts with a song that had the lyric, “Turn around, bright eyes.” Who knew that for the millions of Americans diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, Tyler’s power ballad offers a tip to remember next time you’re in the drug store. If your health care provider suggests you take a vitamin formulation to help manage your condition, check the front of the package and then turn it around to read the ingredient label to make sure you’re getting exactly what he or she recommends.

Conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) suggests that for people diagnosed with intermediate or advanced age-related macular degeneration, a particular formulation of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, and beta-carotene reduces the risk of advanced macular degeneration by 25%. Based on the advice of their eye care professionals, many people diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration take a dietary supplement that contains the “recipe” tested in the AREDS study.

But according to the FTC, some products may use the name AREDS or may refer to a second study called AREDS2, but don’t include the ingredients the NIH found to be beneficial. That was the subject of a letter the FTC staff recently sent to a major drug store chain. The company sold a product with the phrase “Comparable to Ongoing Study Formula in AREDS2” on the front of the package, but it didn’t have the Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, and beta-carotene that the NIH studied.

The company agreed to remove the claim from packaging, but the FTC inquiry illustrates two things to consider next time you’re checking out a product on the drug store shelf.

First, if you’re thinking about taking a dietary supplement or other health-related product, talk it over with your practitioner.

Second, if your health care provider suggests a particular supplement or other product available over the counter, make sure you’re getting the exact ingredients in the precise amounts you’ve been directed to take. Don’t rely on a claim in an ad or on the front of a bottle. Take the time – and here’s where that Bonnie Tyler song comes in – to turn the package around and read the ingredients line by line. When food shopping, we already turn the package around to read the nutrition label. Make it a habit to do the same thing when you buy supplements or other over-the-counter products.

The NIH’s National Eye Institute has more information about what the AREDS studies mean for people with age-related macular degeneration.

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Health & Fitness

Comments

Misprint on your information about Areds 2 which does NOT contain beta carotene, since a former study indicated it may cause lung cancer in former smokers. Your article is good and point well taken, just needs correction on formula of AREDS 2. This is from the NIH website:
Researchers with the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) reported in 2001 that a nutritional supplement called the AREDS formulation can reduce the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The original AREDS formulation contains vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper.

In 2006, the same research group, which is based at NIH’s National Eye Institute, began a second study called AREDS2 to determine if they could improve the AREDS formulation. They tried adding omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are in the same family of nutrients as beta-carotene. The researchers also tried substituting lutein and zeaxanthin for beta-carotene, which prior studies had associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. The study found that while omega-3 fatty acids had no effect on the formulation, lutein and zeaxanthin together appeared to be a safe and effective alternative to beta-carotene.

You’ve raised a very good point. The original AREDS study tested a formulation with Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, beta carotene and copper. One of the formulations tested in the AREDS2 study contained the same amount of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and copper, less zinc, 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 10 mg lutein, and 2 mg zeaxanthin, but no beta-carotene. Why test a formulation without beta-carotene? Because according to the National Cancer Institute, beta-carotene may increase lung cancer risk among smokers.

For people diagnosed with intermediate or advanced age-related macular degeneration, the AREDS vs. AREDS2 formulation is a decision they should discuss with their practitioners. The FTC staff’s concern was that the product that was the subject of our letter didn’t contain Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and zinc – important components of both the AREDS and the AREDS2 formulation.

Thanks again for the clarification.

Very impressive and helpful article, thank you

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