Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), sponsored by the National Eye Institute, a government funded organisation in the USA.
The AREDS study found that high levels of certain nutritional supplements reduces:
Vision loss by 19%
Risk of advanced AMD by 25% These nutrients are not a cure for AMD, nor will they restore vision already lost from the disease. However, they could play a role in helping people at high risk from developing advanced AMD. Should I take nutritional supplements? You might wish to consider taking nutritional supplements if you have either:
Vision loss from AMD in one eye (either wet or dry form) Your GP can help you determine if they are safe for you. If I have a few small drusen, should I take the nutrients to prevent disease progression to the intermediate stage? The study did not demonstrate any benefit to those with early AMD. A dilated eye examination every year can help determine whether the disease is progressing.
What are the side effects from the AREDS formulation? While most patients in the study experienced no serious side effects from the doses of zinc and antioxidants used, a few taking zinc alone had urinary tract problems that required hospitalisation. Some patients taking large doses of antioxidants experienced some yellowing of the skin. The long-term effects of taking these supplements are still unknown. Smokers and ex-smokers should not take beta-carotene, as studies have shown a link between beta-carotene use and lung cancer among smokers.
Daily dosage of the nutrients used in the ARED study
500mg of Vitamin C
400iu of Vitamin E
15mg of beta-carotene
80mg of zinc as zinc oxide
2mg of copper
Copper, as cupric oxide, was added to prevent copper deficiency, which could be associated with high levels of zinc supplementation.
People who eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit have a lower incidence of age-related macular degeneration. Dark green, leafy vegetables are particularly helpful.
People who eat fish three times a week have a lower incidence of macular degeneration.
People who eat a lot of saturated fats have a higher risk of AMD.
Eat Lots of Vegetables and FruitsAntioxidants protect against oxidation, which is a part of the process of AMD. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, mustard greens and collard greens contain high levels of lutein, a critical antioxidant. Antioxidants are also present in fruits and vegetables with bright color, including red grapes, peppers, corn, oranges, cantaloupe and mango. Look for fresh produce in a variety of colors to get a wide range of vitamins in your diet. We don’t have all the answers, so eating a varied diet is wise. Eat 5-9 servings a day. While this may sound like a lot, a serving is really only ½ cup of most foods or one cup of leafy greens.
Eat FishPeople who eat fish 2-3 times a week have a lower risk for AMD. Fish contain omega-3 which seems to be a critical nutrient for the heart and eyes. The best fish are either wild salmon or small fish like sardines. If you cannot tolerate fish or obtain it easily, an omega-3 supplement is another option. Fish oil capsules are widely available.
Limit Your Fat IntakeIn reviewing studies on fat, researchers found that while the amount of fat consumed makes a difference, the real issue for AMD is the amount of saturated fats in the diet. The biggest source of saturated fat is animal products – beef, lamb, pork, lard, butter, cream, whole milk and high fat cheese. Plant oils also have saturated fat, including coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm oil and palm kernel oil. Read the labels on processed foods and baked goods, as they often have high amounts of saturated fats. Instead, consume healthy fats like olive oil or avocado.
Ask Your Doctor About SupplementsIf you have intermediate AMD already, your doctor may recommend taking a supplement that has been proven to slow the progression and vision loss from AMD. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was a 10 year study of 3500 people with AMD. The supplement contains:
500 mg Vitamin C
400 IU Vitamin E
15 mg Betacarotene
80 mg zinc
2 mg copper
The AREDS formula did not prevent AMD and was not effective in people with early AMD. But for those with intermediate AMD, it slowed the progression by 25% and slowed the vision loss by 19%. This is a high dose vitamin, so you should only take it if your doctor recommends it. You should also inform all your doctors of every supplement or herbal remedy you use. Additional research has led scientists to consider changing this formula. A five year AREDS 2 project has just concluded, which looked at reducing the zinc, eliminating the betacarotene (which can cause lung cancer in smokers) and adding lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3. As a result of the data collected, the National Eye Institute has recommended changes to the AREDS formula. They removed the betacarotene and added lutein and zeaxanthin, which were an effective replacement. For people with a poor diet, the lutein and zeaxanthin provided additional benefit, but for those who already have a good diet, the lutein and zeaxanthin did not make a difference. They did not suggest adding Omega-3, as they saw no effect from it in this study.