Vitamins and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Vitamins and Age-Related Macular Degeneration


In 2001, results of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI), showed that high levels of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduce the risk of vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in Americans age 65 and older. These nutrients are not a cure and will not restore vision already lost from AMD, but have been proven to slow the progression of AMD in certain groups of patients.

Individuals with AMD taking the vitamins in the clinical trial reduced the risk of vision loss and advanced AMD by 25% over 5 years.  There was no benefit in those without AMD or mild forms of AMD.

While diets rich in leafy green vegetables have been shown to reduce risk of AMD progression, appropriate levels are difficult to obtain from diet alone.

Each individual’s medical issues should be considered in coordination with the primary physician when deciding to take high doses of these vitamins.  In smokers, high doses of beta-carotene have been associated with increased risk of lung cancer.

In 2006 the NEI launched AREDS 2, to test whether the original formulation could be improved by adding omega-3 fatty acids; adding lutein and zeaxanthin; removing beta-carotene; or reducing zinc.  The study also examined how different combinations of the supplements performed.

In May 2013, the results of AREDS 2 revealed no overall additional benefit from adding omega-3 fatty acids or a 5-to-1 mixture of lutein and zeaxanthin to the formulation.  However, the investigators did find some benefit when they analyzed two subgroups of participants; those not given beta-carotene, and those who had very little lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets.  These participants had an 18% reduction in developing advanced AMD in 5 years when compared to those who took a formulation with beta-carotene but no lutein or zeaxanthin.

Furthermore, similar to the original AREDS findings, the AREDS2 reaffirmed that none of the modified formulations reduced the risk of progression to cataract surgery.

Recommendation:  After retinal examination, your eye doctor may determine that you stand to benefit from the following formulation.  Please inform your primary physician before starting these nutrients to assure they are safe for you.

The current formulation includes the following;

Vitamin C – 500 mg

Vitamin E – 400 IU

Zinc  – 80 mg

Copper  – 2 mg

Lutein – 10 mg

Zeaxanthin – 2 mg

No prescription is required and several brands are available over the counter for you to choose.