The AREDS-1 study looked at vitamin supplements of beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper in 4000 patients.
During the AREDS-1 study, patients filled out questionaires about their diet. Analysis of these questionaires combined with observation of the patients’ macula over time suggested that two groups of patients may have a dietary effect in terms of reducing progression to more advanced macular degeneration:
1. patients who ate 5 to 7 servings a week of leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, green beans, kale, collard greens)
2. patients who ate 2 servings a week of baked or broiled fish
Leafy green vegetables contain special “xanthophyll pigments” known as lutein and zeaxanthin. These pigments are also found within the macula, the center of the retina. Fish contains the omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
These xanthophyll pigments and these “fish fats” may have an antioxidant effect. We know that oxidative “free radical” damage plays a role in macular degeneration.
The suggestion from the AREDS-1 dietary data of a beneficial effect from leafy green vegetable and fish consumption led to the hypothesis that vitamin supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin and with DHA and EPA may reduce the risk of developing more advanced macular degeneration. This hypothesis is being tested in a new clinical trial called the AREDS-2. This study is ongoing and will follow patients for a minimum of 5 years. The results of this study will probably be available around 2013.
In the meantime, patients with an “intermediate” grade should strongly consider taking the AREDS-1 formulation. Patients may make their own decision as to whether they would also like to take lutein, zeaxanthin, DHA, and EPA. For your information, listed below are the doses being used in the AREDS-2 study:
Lutein 10 mg per day
Zeaxanthin 2 mg per day
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 350 mg per day
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) 650 mg per day
Whether or not you take AREDS-1 or AREDS-2 vitamins, Dr. Dahr generally recommends trying to eat 5 to 7 servings a week of leafy green vegetables. Unfortunately, the fish industry is facing various challenges with regards to farm-raised fish having industrial contaminants (1, 2). If you believe you can eat either safely farmed or wild-caught fish twice a week, that may also benefit yours eyes. The fish should be baked or broiled.