Antioxidant Supplements May Maintain Eyesight for 300,000 Americans at Risk for Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration

BACKGROUND: Researchers previously reported that taking a high-potency multi-antioxidant/zinc supplement daily for six years significantly reduced the progression of intermediate to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD, characterized by a degeneration of the retina, is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly in the US. The supplements found to have the greatest benefit in the study provided the following daily amounts of vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (15 mg); zinc (80 mg) and copper (2 mg).

RESEARCH: In this follow-up study, researchers predicted the potential public health benefits of taking the antioxidant/zinc supplement over five years by people at high risk for AMD. Their prediction was based on the estimate of approximately 8 million Americans over age 55 with some form of AMD in one or both eyes.

RESULTS: The researchers calculated that 1.3 million people would develop advanced AMD over five years if they received no treatment. However, they predicted more than 300,000 of these people would likely avoid advanced AMD during this time if they took the antioxidant/zinc supplement.

IMPLICATIONS: The researchers predicted significant public health benefits even if only half of the people at high risk for advanced AMD took the antioxidant/zinc supplement. They noted that "Avoiding the development of advanced AMD can have a major effect on the quality of life for an individual. Preventing this development in the first eye of an individual is important, since the second eye will also be at risk; preventing this development in the second eye of an individual will have a direct effect on that individual's visual function for central visual tasks and thus on that individual's quality of life."

Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. Potential public health impact of age-related eye disease study results. AREDS Report No. 11.
Archives of Ophthalmology, 2003;121:1621-1624. (The citation for the original study is: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. Archives of Ophthalmology, 2001;119:1417-

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