Antioxidant Vitamins and Zinc Reduce Risk of Vision Loss
From Age-Related Macular Degeneration
by ARA Content
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
"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 vision loss.
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
"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 study."
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 deficiency."
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 taking antioxidants.
"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
About The Author
Courtesy ARA Content, ; e-mail: EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information, contact Michael Coogan, NEI Information
Office, (301) 496-5248, .
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.
(ARA) - Findings from a
nationwide clinical trial reported
that high levels of antioxidants
and zinc significantly reduce the
risk of 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
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