Supplements Aid in Protection against Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Results of the Age-Related Eye Disease 2 (AREDS2) clinical trial were presented by the National Eye Institute at the Association for Vision Research in Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting on May 5 in Seattle.
Lawrence Ulanski, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary and Study Site Principal Investigator, stated, “This study clarifies that the selective use of lutein and zeaxanthin—plant-derived antioxidants—may be a superior substitute to beta-carotene in the AREDS formula, for their improved safety profile and efficacy. This effect appears most beneficial in those patients who may have dietary deficiencies of carotenoids from a lack of green leafy vegetable intake in their diet.”
In 1992, the National Eye Institute (NEI) launched the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), the first clinical trial to determine if dietary supplementation of beta-carotene (the colorful compounds in carrots, sweet potatoes and kale), vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and copper were beneficial to reducing the progression of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). When the AREDS ended in 2002, it demonstrated that patients with AMD who took the suggested vitamin supplementation reduced the risk of disease advancement by 25 percent and severe vision loss by 21 percent as compared to those who took a placebo. The formulation did not benefit people without AMD or early AMD.
The NEI launched the AREDS2 study in 2006, and limited the study to people with intermediate or advanced AMD. The study was initiated at 100 sites to determine if the addition of lutein and zeaxanthin—carotenoids more specific to the eye, and/or omega-3 fatty acids, to the original AREDS formula would offer additional benefits to retard disease advancement.
According to the NEI, adding omega-3 fatty acids did not improve outcomes when used in combination with nutritional supplements commonly recommended for treating AMD. “Millions of older Americans take nutritional supplements to protect their sight without clear guidance regarding benefit and risk,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. (UIC: MD ’78, PhD ’81, Res Oph ’82) “This study clarifies the role of supplements in helping prevent advanced AMD, an incurable, common, and devastating disease that robs older people of their sight and independence.”
Co-investigator Jennifer Lim, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Marion H. Schenk, Esq., Chair in Ophthalmology for Research of the Aging Eye, said, “The AREDS2 study results guide us in the recommendation of optimal preventive treatment to our patients suffering from dry AMD. Once again, the power of clinical trials is evident in showing us what treatments are effective and which are not.”
Dr. Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, Professor and Chair, Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, UIC Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences and Associate Dean for Strategic Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine thanked the patients who participated in the clinical trial at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. “These patients dedicated themselves to furthering our knowledge about how to reduce the burden of AMD. All of us at the Illinois Eye and Ear infirmary are very appreciative of their support and efforts.”