Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an important cause of vision loss among older people. Researchers discovered almost twenty years ago that people with moderate AMD could slow the progression of their macular degeneration by taking a specific nutritional supplement (Archives of Ophthalmology, Oct. 2001). That trial (AREDS: Age Related Eye Disease Study) was later updated, with the finding that lutein and zeaxanthin could be substituted for beta-carotene and get equally beneficial results. Adding fish oil to the supplement did not help, however. (JAMA, May 15, 2013). You can read more about that study here. Readers may wonder whether taking AREDS vitamins will provide benefit for their eyesight.
Can AREDS Vitamins Put Macular Degeneration on Hold?
Q. I would like to know how to keep my macular degeneration from getting worse. Are there any supplements that can help? I strongly prefer a product that has a clinical trial to support it.
A. Two major clinical trials have demonstrated benefit from supplements to slow the progression of macular degeneration. These were termed AREDS and AREDS2 (JAMA, May 15, 2013; Advances in Nutrition, Jan. 2017). The formula for AREDS vitamins contains vitamin C (500 mg), vitamin E (400 IU), beta-carotene (15 mg), zinc (80 mg) and copper (2 mg). AREDS2 discovered that switching out beta-carotene for lutein and zeaxanthin worked just as well and was safer for smokers.
You should be able to find a supplement that is based on the AREDS2 formula. It will tell you that on the label.
Can You Get AREDS Vitamins in Your Diet?
You may also want to change your diet so it contains the AREDS vitamins that are included in both formulas. This means getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet by eating berries, dark green leafy vegetables, corn and avocado (Antioxidants, April 2019). In addition, a study in which participants answered detailed dietary questionnaires at several intervals found that those who ate more meat and processed foods were three times more likely to develop late-stage macular degeneration than those on a more prudent diet rich in vegetables and fruits (British Journal of Ophthalmology, Dec. 6, 2019). As a result, one could conclude that focusing on brightly-colored produce is a good way to get AREDS vitamins that could help save your sight.
Learn more about macular degeneration and strategies to slow its progression by listening to our one-hour free interview with Dr. Peter McDonnell, Director of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. It is Show 1154: How to Take Good Care of Your Eyesight.