The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that taking a specific high-dose formulation of antioxidants and zinc significantly reduces the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss. Slowing AMD’s progression from the intermediate stage to the advanced stage will save the vision of many people. The specific daily amounts of antioxidants and zinc used by the study researchers were: 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene (often labeled as equivalent to 25,000 IU of vitamin A), 80 mg of zinc as zinc oxide, and 2 mg of copper as cupric oxide. Copper was added to the AREDS formulation containing zinc to prevent copper deficiency anemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake. Smokers need to take a modified version of the supplement without added beta-carotene due to an increased risk of lung cancer.
More recent evidence suggests that Omega-3 from fish oils or flax seed oils is also beneficial at reducing the risk of progress in macular degeneration. Caretoids such as Lutein and Zeaxanthine are also felt to have a protective effect and may be beneficial.
The AREDS vitamins, Omega-3 and caretoids are not a cure for AMD. They will not restore vision already lost from the disease. However, they may delay the onset of advanced AMD. It may help people who are at high risk for developing advanced AMD to keep their vision. The high levels of vitamins and minerals are difficult to achieve from diet alone. However, previous studies have suggested that people who have diets rich in green leafy vegetables have a lower risk of developing AMD. In addition the levels of antioxidants and zinc are considerably higher than the amounts in any daily multivitamin. A multivitamin contains many important vitamins not found in the AREDS formulation. You may want to take a multivitamin along with the AREDS formulation. For example, people with osteoporosis need to be particularly concerned about taking vitamin D, which is not in the AREDS formulation.