Antioxidant Vitamins and Zinc Reduce Risk of
Vision Loss from Age-Related Macular
by ARA Content
(ARA) - Findings
from a nationwide clinical trial reported that high levels of
antioxidants and zinc significantly
advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
and its associated vision loss.
Scientists found that people at high risk of
developing advanced stages of AMD, a leading cause of
vision loss, lowered their risk by about 25
percent when treated with a high-dose combination of vitamin C,
vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc. In the same high risk
group -- which includes people with intermediate AMD, or
advanced AMD in one eye but not the other eye -- the nutrients
reduced the risk of vision loss caused by
advanced AMD by about 19 percent. For those study participants
who had either no AMD or early AMD, the nutrients did not
provide an apparent benefit. The clinical trial -- called the
Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) -- was sponsored by the
National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the Federal government's
National Institutes of Health.
"This is an exciting discovery because, for people at high
risk for developing advanced AMD, these nutrients are
the first effective treatment to slow the progression of the
disease," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the
NEI. "AMD is a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness
in Americans 65 years of age and older. Currently,
treatment for advanced AMD is quite limited. These nutrients
will delay the progression to advanced AMD in people who are at
high risk -- those with intermediate AMD in one or both
eyes, or those with advanced AMD in one eye already.
"The nutrients are not a cure for AMD, nor will they restore
vision already lost from the disease," Dr. Sieving said.
"But they will play a key role in helping people at high
risk for developing advanced AMD keep their vision."
A common feature of AMD is the presence of drusen, yellow
deposits under the retina. Often found in people over
age 60, drusen can be seen by an eye care professional
during an eye exam in which the pupils are dilated. Drusen by
themselves do not usually cause vision loss, but an
increase in their size or number increases a person's
risk of developing advanced AMD, which can cause serious
Advanced AMD can cause serious vision loss.
Scientists are unsure about how or why an increase in the size
or number of drusen can sometimes lead to advanced AMD, which
affects the sharp, central vision required for the
"straight ahead" activities, such as reading, driving and
recognizing faces of friends.
"Previous studies have suggested that people who have diets
rich in green, leafy vegetables have a lower risk of
developing AMD," said Frederick Ferris, M.D., director of
clinical research at the NEI and chairman of the AREDS.
"However, the high levels of nutrients that were evaluated in
the AREDS are very difficult to achieve from diet alone.
"Almost two-thirds of AREDS participants chose to take a
daily multivitamin in addition to their assigned study
treatment," Dr. Ferris said. "The study also showed that, even
with a daily multivitamin, people at high risk for
developing advanced AMD can lower the risk of
vision loss by adding a formulation with the same
high levels of antioxidants and zinc used in the
Dr. Ferris said some people with intermediate AMD may not
wish to take large doses of antioxidant vitamins
or zinc medical reasons. "For example, beta-carotene has
been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer among
smokers," he said. "These people may want to discuss with their
primary care doctor the best combination of nutrients for them.
With the use of the high levels of zinc, it is important to add
appropriate amounts of copper to the diet to prevent copper
The AREDS participants reported few side effects from the
treatments. About 7.5 percent of participants assigned to the
zinc treatments -- compared with five percent who did
not have zinc in their assigned treatment -- had urinary
tract problems that required hospitalization. Participants in
the two groups that took zinc also reported anemia at a
slightly higher rate; however, testing of all patients for this
disorder showed no difference among treatment groups. Yellowing
of the skin, a well-known side effect of large doses of
beta-carotene, was reported slightly more often by participants
"The AREDS formula is the first demonstrated treatment for
people at high risk for developing advanced AMD," Feris
said. "Slowing the progression of AMD to its advanced stage
will save the vision of many who would otherwise have
had serious vision impairment."
About The Author
Courtesy ARA Content, www.ARAcontent.com; e-mail: info@ARAcontent.com
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information, contact Michael Coogan,
NEI Information Office, (301) 496-5248, email@example.com.
VNR and ANR available in English and Spanish by calling
301-496-5248. Photos and other materials available in
downloadable, camera-ready format on the NEI website at
The National Eye Institute is part of the National
Institutes of Health and is the Federal government's lead
agency for vision research. NEI-supported research leads
to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing
visual impairment and blindness. The NIH is an agency of the US
Department of Health and Human Services.