Sight-Saving Supplements for Seniors: Study Says Antioxidants Are Key

Among older people, progression of vision loss frommacular degeneration may be delayed by antioxidants and zinc, according to amajor new study.

In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), sponsored bythe National Eye Institute, researchers followed 4,757 older people for morethan six years. The volunteers were at risk of developing advanced age-relatedmacular degeneration (ARMD) because of existing physical changes in their eyes.

Antioxidants and Zinc Get Results.Study participants were given one of four treatments: 1) 80 milligrams of zinc(plus 2 milligrams of copper to prevent a copper deficiency, which can occurwhen taking high levels of zinc); 2) antioxidants: 500 milligrams of vitamin C,400 International Units (IU) of vitamin E and 15 milligrams (25,000 IU) ofbeta-carotene; 3) antioxidants plus zinc and copper (Ocuvite PreserVisionformula); or 4) a placebo.

Results of the study, reported in the October issue of theArchives of Ophthalmology, showed that those taking both the antioxidantsand the zinc lowered their risk of developing advanced ARMD by about 25% andreduced the risk of vision loss from ARMD by about 19% compared to the placebogroup. The antioxidant-zinc combination proved better than either alone.

Surprisingly, the supplements had no impact on thedevelopment or progression of cataracts, another sight-robbing disease of aging.

Caution and Advice. Sideeffects were uncommon, but included kidney stones and yellowing of the skin frombeta-carotene. The researchers caution smokers to avoid beta-carotenesupplements because of a possible link to lung cancer.

The researchers suggest that people over the age of 55have their eyes checked regularly for ARMD by an ophthalmologist. Thosewith signs of disease might consider taking antioxidant supplements plus zinc.Keep in mind that this study used very high doses?especially of zinc?butthat doesn’t mean lower doses might not work as well. Moreover, the study didnot test lutein or zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that have also shown evidence ofprotection against ARMD (see EN, April2001). Check with your doctorbefore taking an eye supplement.

ENLooks at Eye Supplements

(Products are listed alphabetically. Nutrientlevels are given per tablet; recommended dosages vary.)

Eye Supplement

Beta-carotene
(IU)

Lutein
(mg)

Vitamin C
(mg)

Vitamin E
(IU)

Zinc
 (mg)

Copper
(mg)

CVS Zinc with Antioxidants

5,000 0 60 30 40 2

ICaps

6,000 0 200 60 40 2

ICaps (lutein & zeaxanthin formula) *

3,300 4? 200 75 30 2

Ocuvite

1,000 2 200 60 40 2

Ocuvite Extra*

6,000 2 200 50 40 2

Ocuvite with Lutein

0 6 60 30 15 2

Ocuvite PreserVision (on shelves soon)?

7,160 0 113 100 17.4 0.4

* Also contains B vitamins, selenium andmanganese.
? Exact formula used in AREDS when taken at a dose of 4 tablets per day; label amounts are different because they reflect minimum contents throughout shelf life of product.
? Lutein + zeaxanthin. IU = InternationalUnits; mg = milligrams

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