OD News Articles

1st July 2002

Nutrients Significantly Cut Risk of AMD

High levels of antioxidants and zinc reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by about 25 percent. These same nutrients also reduce the risk of vision loss caused by advanced AMD by about 19 percent. And they have no significant effect on the development or progression of cataract.

These findings were obtained from the 5-year results of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). A total of 4757 men and women between ages 55 and 80 years were enrolled. Their macular status ranged from no evidence of AMD in either eye to relatively severe disease with vision loss in one eye and good vision (20/30 or better) in the fellow eye.

People who are at high risk or have advanced AMD should consider daily doses of the formulation used in the study:

  • 500 mg vitamin C
  • 400 IU of vitamin E
  • 15 mg of beta-carotene
  • 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide
  • 2 mg of copper as cupric oxide

Bausch and Lomb, a collaborator in the AREDS, provided the nutrients which are now marketed as Ocuvite PreserVision. Other companies produce similar formulas. Copper was added to the AREDS formulations containing zinc to prevent copper deficiency, which may be associated with high levels of zinc supplementation. Since antioxidant vitamins may be purchased separately, it is important to inform patients to include copper when ever taking high levels of zinc.

AREDS participants reported few side effects. About 7.5% of participants assigned to the zinc treatment suffered urinary tract problems that required hospitalization, compared to 5% of the non-zinc group. Participants in the two groups that took zinc also reported a higher rate of anemia. A well known side effect of beta-carotene—yellowing of the skin—was reported slightly more often by participants taking antioxidants. Of special importance, two large clinical studies sponsored by the National Cancer Institute have shown beta-carotene to significantly increase the risk of lung cancer among smokers. A responsible clinical recommendation is that smokers not take beta-carotene—or stop smoking.

Source: National Eye Institute www.nei.nih.gov

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