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Can You Save Your Sight With AREDS Vitamins?

Taking a formula with AREDS vitamins and eating foods full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals can help keep macular degeneration from deterioriating.
Can You Save Your Sight With AREDS Vitamins?
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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:

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.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • 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: AREDS report no. 8." Archives of Ophthalmology, Oct. 2001. DOI: 10.1001/archopht.119.10.1417
  • Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group, "Lutein + zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids for age-related macular degeneration: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) randomized clinical trial." JAMA, May 15, 2013. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4997
  • Gorusupudi A et al, "The Age-Related Eye Disease 2 Study: Micronutrients in the treatment of macular degeneration." Advances in Nutrition, Jan. 2017. DOI: 10.3945/an.116.013177
  • Khoo HE et al, "Nutrients for prevention of macular degeneration and eye-related diseases." Antioxidants, April 2019. DOI: 10.3390/antiox8040085
  • Dighe S et al, "Diet patterns and the incidence of age-related macular degeneration in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study." British Journal of Ophthalmology, Dec. 6, 2019. DOI: 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2019-314813
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