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Good News About Supplements and Macular Degeneration

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on September 20, 2022

Many agree that taking supplements can benefit your health. Now you can add slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration to the list of supplement benefits.

First reported in 2001, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that persons who were at high risk of developing advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration lower their risk by 25 percent when treated with a combination of high doses of vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and the mineral zinc. (See Gulden blog entry: Macular Degeneration Research Findings November 6, 2018 )

In a new study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, scientists analyzed 10 years of AREDS2 data. The information showed that the AREDS2 formula, which substituted antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin for beta-carotene, reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The original study AREDS, begun in 1996, demonstrated that a supplement formulation of 500 mg vitamin C, 400 international units vitamin E, 2 mg copper, 80 mg zinc, and 15 mg beta-carotene, slowed the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Since beta-carotene increased the risk of lung cancer for smokers in two National Institute of Health (NIH) studies, the goal of AREDS2 was to produce an effective supplement formula that could be used by both smokers and nonsmokers. Hence the substitution of lutein and zeaxanthin for beta-carotene.

The AREDS2 study, started in 2006, showed that lutein and zeaxanthin did not increase the risk of lung cancer and that the new formulation could reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration progression by 26 percent. At the end of the study, participants were offered the AREDS2 formulation with lutein and zeaxanthin, instead of the formulation with beta-carotene.

There’s more. Researchers followed up with 3,883 of the 4,203 AREDS2 participants in 2016 to see if their age-related macular degeneration had progressed to the late disease stage and whether they had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The follow up showed that those who were smokers and received the beta-carotene formulation had their risk of lung cancer double. Conversely, there was no increase of lung cancer risk in smokers who received the formulation with lutein and zeaxanthin. After 10 years, the group that initially received lutein and zeaxanthin had an additional 20 percent reduced risk of progression to late-stage age-related macular degeneration.

Of course, if you do have age-related macular degeneration, don’t just start taking supplements. Discuss this study with your eye doctor. Still, this study shows that supplements can be utilized to preserve vision for those with age-related macular degeneration and keep the condition from getting worse.


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