Life Extension Update
Latest macular degeneration study plans to add new nutritional supplements
The results of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), released in 2001, found that high doses of beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper lowered the risk of progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 25 percent as well as reduced the risk of moderate vision loss by 19 percent. Now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced that a new study, AREDS2, will evaluate the benefits of the previously studied supplements with the addition of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil, lutein and zeaxanthin. The findings of observational studies have suggested that these nutrients may be protective against macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration occurs in a wet form, caused by abnormal blood vessel growth under the macula of the eye, and a less severe dry form, which occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula degenerate. Dry macular degeneration can progress into the wet form of the disease if untreated.
"Nearly two million Americans have vision loss from advanced AMD, and another seven million with AMD are at substantial risk for vision loss,” commented Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, who is the director of the National Eye Institute at NIH. “In the AREDS study, we found a combination of vitamins and minerals that effectively slowed the progression of AMD for some people. Now, we will conduct this more precisely-targeted study to see if the new combination of nutrients can reduce AMD progression even further. This study may help people at high risk for advanced AMD maintain useful vision for a longer time."
"The AREDS2 study is seeking 4,000 people between 50 and 85 years of age with AMD in both eyes, or advanced AMD in one eye,” study chairperson Emily Y. Chew, MD, stated. “They must be available for yearly eye examinations for at least five years. Until we get the results from AREDS2, we encourage people with AMD to visit their eye care professional to see if they need to take the AREDS vitamin and mineral formulation. This alone could save more than 300,000 people from vision loss over the next five years."
To find out about participating in the study, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov/AREDS2/
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition characterized by the deterioration of the macula. Macular is derived from the Latin word, macula, meaning spot. The macula is the central and most vital area of the retina, providing the clearest, most distinct vision needed, for example, in seeing fine detail, reading, driving, and recognizing facial features. There are two forms of macular degeneration: atrophic (dry) and neovascular (wet). Both forms of the disease may affect both eyes simultaneously. Vision can become severely impaired, with central vision rather than peripheral vision affected. The ability to see color is generally not affected, and total blindness from the condition is rare.
As lutein and zeaxanthin are the essential pigments within the macula, it is critical to replenish them as they become depleted through the aging process. Consumption of foods rich in these substances is especially important since they have a direct affect on macular pigment density. When the pigment in the macula is denser, retinal tearing or degeneration is less likely. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in yellow or orange vegetables, in dark leafy greens, and in fruits with yellow or orange hues. Egg yolk is a good source of lutein. Dietary supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin are recommended.
Decreased levels of natural antioxidants in the healthy eye are assocaited with AMD. Some of these essential natural antioxidants are glutathione, vitamin C, and the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Dietary supplementation with these antioxidants protect against the progression of AMD.
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