Dubious Facebook ads promote unproven supplement SightCare alleged to restore “perfect” vision and cure macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that’s a leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. To date, there is no known cure for AMD, although depending on the severity of the disease, its progression can be slowed down by taking special dietary supplements containing a specific combination of vitamins and minerals. However, the supplements don’t cure the disease or reverse vision loss, and there’s currently no evidence showing that they have an impact on eye diseases outside of AMD.
Inadequate support: The claim that SightCare can treat macular degeneration and other eye diseases by stimulating stem cells is primarily based on an anecdote. Although some of the scientific references cited on the website investigated the effects of various compounds, including astazanthin and zeaxanthin, on stem cells, they didn’t show that these compounds cured or reversed vision loss in people.
Numerous ads purporting to reveal a “simple 7-Second Bedtime Ritual” that would restore vision went viral on Facebook in December 2023. Examples of such ads can be seen here and here. All the ads we found were published by a single Facebook page calling itself the “Vision Health Institute” and directed users to click on a link. This sends users to a website (archive version) showing a promotional video for a supplement called SightCare.
The video showed an individual named David Lewis, allegedly an “eye specialist with 37 years of experience”, touting the vision-restoring benefit of SightCare. Lewis claimed that SightCare would stimulate “adult repair stem cells” to restore vision, thanks to various ingredients such as zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, lutein, and bilberry.
As evidence, Lewis cited how he had developed macular degeneration and recovered his eyesight with SightCare. The webpage also presented several “Scientific References” as supporting evidence.
We were unable to find someone named David Lewis corresponding to the individual shown in the video. Furthermore, the evidence doesn’t substantiate the radical claims made in the video. We explain more below.
Studies cited didn’t show SightCare ingredients curing vision problems in people
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an eye disease that’s a leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. It occurs as a result of damage to the macula, a very small part of the retina at the back of the eye that is nevertheless essential to central and color vision.
To date, there is no known cure for AMD. In the case of intermediate AMD affecting one or both eyes or late-stage AMD affecting only one eye, the progression of the disease can be slowed by taking special dietary supplements containing a specific combination of vitamins and minerals.
One study conducted by scientists at the U.S. National Eye Institute, called the AREDS/AREDS2 clinical trial, found that supplements containing a particular combination of ingredients, including lutein and zeaxanthin, reduced the risk of disease progression in age-related macular degeneration. However, the trial found that supplements didn’t prevent the onset of the disease or reverse vision loss.
In brief, it’s possible to slow down the progression of certain forms of AMD by using dietary supplements. However, this doesn’t constitute a cure or reversal of the disease. This also doesn’t constitute evidence that the supplements would improve other eye problems apart from AMD, contrary to the ads’ generalized claim that SightCare would cure various eye problems.
Moreover, SightCare doesn’t appear to contain the same combination of ingredients as the supplements used in the AREDS/AREDS2 clinical trial, based on the SightCare ingredient list in an Amazon listing of the product. We ensured that the product bore the same labeling as the bottles shown on the SightCare website, as there are multiple products named SightCare but labeled differently and manufactured by other companies.
Neither lutein or zeaxanthin appear on its ingredient list, even though the video claimed SightCare contained both ingredients. The levels of vitamins C and E, copper, and zinc also don’t match those of the AREDS supplements.
The webpage that the ads linked to listed 14 “scientific references”. While some of these studies did find that certain compounds present in SightCare had an effect on stem cell proliferation, none of them showed that this cured eye diseases or reversed vision loss in people.
Four of the “scientific references” aren’t published studies. One is a 2014 CBS News article on the cost of glasses; one is an article about age-related macular degeneration on the website Life Extension, which markets supplements; one is an article on the American Macular Degeneration Foundation website, reporting the findings of a study in quail examining the role of zeaxanthin in vision; and the fourth is an article from the U.S. National Eye Institute about the findings of the AREDS/AREDS2 clinical trial mentioned earlier.
As for the remaining 10 “scientific references”, only three provided results of studies in humans. And none of the three showed that SightCare—or the ingredients contained in SightCare—cured eye diseases or restored “perfect 20/20 vision” as claimed.
Facebook page exhibits unusual characteristics
It’s unclear if the page responsible for publishing these ads is actually being operated by the company producing SightCare, which according to the Amazon listing, is Trimedix. We were unable to find a company with that name. This name also didn’t appear on the Facebook page.
The Page Transparency section for the Facebook page indicated that it was registered on 12 December 2023 (see Figure 1 below).
Figure 1. The Page Transparency section of the Vision Health Institute Facebook page.
We couldn’t find information identifying the individuals or organization responsible for running the page. Furthermore, the photos uploaded on the page appeared to be primarily AI-generated.
The Facebook Ad Library, which listed the ads being run by the page, offered some clues. For example, the organization paying for the ads is listed as “Breakthrough Vision Care” (see Figure 2 below).
Figure 2. Ad details for an ad run by the Vision Health Institute.
This led us to another Facebook page also bearing the name “Breakthrough Vision Care”, which was set up in August 2023.
Figure 3. The Page Transparency section of the Breakthrough Vision Care Facebook page.
Its Ad Library showed that it had run identical ads to the ones associated with the Vision Health Institute Facebook page. The last ones run by the page were launched in October 2023 (see Figure 4).
Figure 4. Some of the ads run by Breakthrough Vision Care.
Like the Vision Health Institute Facebook page, we were unable to find information on the Breakthrough Vision Care Facebook page identifying the individual(s) running the page.
Some scientific studies have found that certain compounds, such as astaxanthin and zeaxanthin, have the ability to increase stem cell proliferation. However, there’s currently no evidence indicating that this would cure eye diseases or even lead to an improvement.
While one clinical trial found that a particular combination of vitamins and minerals, when taken as a supplement (AREDS supplement), slowed down the progression of of AMD, it didn’t stop the onset of the disease nor did the supplement cure the disease.
While there isn’t enough information at the moment to rule out the possibility that the supplement could have an impact on other eye diseases apart from AMD, there also isn’t any evidence showing that it can cure eye diseases in general.
We also found that SightCare doesn’t contain the same ingredients as the AREDS supplements. Despite the claim that it contains astaxanthin and zeaxanthin, neither of these appear in the actual ingredient list on SightCare’s labeling.
Overall, given the lack of evidence for the medical claims made in these ads and the lack of transparency surrounding these Facebook pages and ads, users are advised to be cautious about the claims made through these avenues.