In the last 20 years, eye health research has linked diet and nutrition with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A major clinical study of older adults concluded that taking an antioxidant vitamin or mineral supplement significantly reduced the risk of advanced AMD progression in some people. Additionally, today there is significant evidence that vitamin D plays a role in preventing AMD.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was a major clinical trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute. It enrolled 3640 subjects, age 55 to 80, and was released in October 2001. This landmark study provided evidence that nutritional intervention in the form of supplements could delay the progression of AMD. The study concluded that taking an antioxidant vitamin or mineral supplement reduced the risk of advanced AMD progression by about 25 percent and showed a 19 percent reduction in visual acuity loss in some of the subjects.
It was not clear in the original AREDS report which vitamin, mineral or combination of nutrients was responsible for reducing the risk of AMD. When the study was planned, the lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids that constitute the macular pigment were not assessed because they were not commercially available. Since then, several studies have provided growing evidence specific to the beneficial role of lutein and zeaxanthin intake, and their positive effect on eye health and AMD risk reduction. The AREDS Report No. 22 published in 2007 described the relationship between dietary intake of various nutrients and AMD among the AREDS subjects. This report concluded that high dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is associated with a reduction in the risk of geographic atrophy, advanced AMD, and large or extensive intermediate drusen, the waste byproducts of cellular metabolism (activity).
A follow up to the original AREDS trial, AREDS2, began in June 2008. This multi-centered, five-year study builds on a multitude of existing science supporting lutein and zeaxanthin’s role in maintaining healthy eyes. It is the largest human clinical trial to evaluate lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids supplementation, and includes 4,000 patients at high risk for AMD. The study is focusing on the protective effects lutein (10 mg/day), zeaxanthin (2 mg/day) , and omega-3 fatty acids (1 g/day) have against AMD, as well as the link between nutrition and macular pigment optical density, cataract development and visual function.