Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS)

With a 107 million Americans now over the age of 50, more and more Americans are prone to age related eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and glaucoma.  AMD is a condition that usually affects older adults resulting in the loss of vision.   As we age, our macula can become damaged.

AREDS Graph

There are three stages of AMD – early, intermediate and advanced.  The first study recruited participants in varying stages of AMD.  Cataract is a condition that causes the lens to become opaque, obstructing light from entering the eye to reach the retina.  These diseases are the primary cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50.  The National Eye Institute conducted two clinical trials on adults (55-80 age group) to understand the impact of different ingredients on age-related diseases such as AMD and cataracts. These studies concluded that it’s difficult to obtain the necessary levels of vitamins and minerals required for supporting eye health from one’s diet alone, and supplementation is recommended.

AREDs – Clinical Trial I (1992-2001)

The first clinical trial concluded that high levels of antioxidants and zinc could lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by around 25%.  The study recommended the following ingredients to lower the risk of AMD:

  • Vitamin Antioxidants: Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Beta-carotene
  • Minerals: Zinc and Copper

AREDs – Clinical Trial II (2006-2013)

The second clinical trial was designed to eliminate beta-carotene, as this nutrient can increase the risk of lung cancer amongst smokers.  Lutein and zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) were also included in the study, to study its impact on intermediate AMD and cataract.

  • Role of Lutein and Zeaxanthin:  These nutrients are essential to the eye as they are concentrated in the retina and lens.   This study concluded that lutein and zeaxanthin lowered the risk of progression to advanced AMD by 18%, and the progression of cataract by 32%.
  • Role of Omega-3 fatty acids: As DHA accounts for one-third of the fatty acids present in the retina, its significantly important to eye health.  While the second AREDs study indicated that omega-3 fatty acids had no significant effect in lowering the risk of advanced AMD, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED) pointed out that the participants used in this study had intermediate AMD in at least one eye, so this study did not explore the possibility of prevention using EPA and DHA.  GOED further responded to AREDS’ study stating that although EPA and DHA do not lower the progression from intermediate to advanced AMD, it’s likely that EPA and DHA can lower risk of AMD in earlier stages.  Read GOED’s official response at Omega-3 and Eye Health.
    • A study published by the Eramus Medical Center Rotterdam at Netherlands in 2011, concluded that consuming EPA/DHA, zinc, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin could lower the risk of early AMD in those at high genetic risk.
    • Another study conducted by the University Hospital Leipzig at Germany in 2013, concludes that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin can increase macular pigment optical density in the eye, thereby improving conditions of AMD patients.  It was also observed that the macular pigment optical density reduces without supplementation.

Read more about omega fatty acids role in eye health at Omega Fatty Acid’s Role in Supporting Eye Health.

Source:

  • AREDS2 Research Group. “Lutein/Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA, published online May 5, 2013.
  • AREDS2 Research Group. “Lutein/Zeaxanthin for the Treatment of Age-Related Cataract.” JAMA Ophthalmology, published online May 5, 2013.
  • The Age-Related Eye Disease Research Group: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS): A clinical trial of zinc and antioxidants. AREDS Report 2. J of Nutrition 130: 1516S-1519S, 2000.
  • The Age-Related Eye Disease Research Group: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS): Risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration. AREDS Report No. 3. Ophthalmology 107: 2224-2232, 2000.