The Age Related Eye Disease Study was a 10 year, 4000 patient clinical trial run by the Epidemiology and Clinical Research Division of the National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health (where Dr. Dahr performed his training in retinal diseases) that was conducted during the 1990s. The results were published in 2001.
Here is the gist of the trial: if you have an “intermediate” grade of macular degeneration, you benefit by taking the vitamins. Taking the vitamins reduces your risk of progressing to an “advanced” grade of macular degeneration (with vision loss) by about 20%.
Some important points to make:
1. If you have no signs of macular degeneration, or if you have an “early” grade of macular degeneration, there is no evidence to suggest you benefit by taking the vitamins. Only people with an ” intermediate” or “advanced” grade may benefit. Dr. Dahr can tell you your macular degeneration grade.
2. The ingredients of the AREDS formulation were:
Beta carotene 15 mg
Vitamin C 500 mg
Vitamin E 400 mg
Zinc 80 mg
Copper 2 mg
3. People who smoke, or people who quit but smoked heavily in the past, or people with significant second hand smoke exposure should avoid beta carotene as, in those people, there may be an increased risk of lung cancer.
4. Patients may take beta carotene, Vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and copper individually to gain the benefit of the AREDS formulation. Patients with a smoking history should not take beta carotene, as discussed above.
5. Alternatively, patients may take an “all-in-one” pill from a vitamin manufacturer. Many different manufacturers promote their pills. Some of these pills conform to the AREDS formula; some do not. The only evidence-based recommendation that can be made is for formulations that conform to the AREDS formulation. Dr. Dahr has found that some pill manufacturers put “AREDS” on their bottle but their pill does not conform to the AREDS formulation. Sorting out through all the manufactures and formulations is obviously difficult for patients.
These vitamins are all available over the counter from Walmart, Target, Walgreens, CVS, and your grocery store, and should generally cost $15-$20 a month. Dr. Dahr has no relationship whatsoever with any manufacturers (see my disclosure statement).
6. Two manufacturers that have been reasonably “vetted” are:
Bausch and Lomb Preservision Tablet AREDS These 2 Bausch and Lomb products are the same except one is a tablet and one is a gel capsule.
7. These two manufacturers make a “smokers version” without beta-carotene:
Bausch and Lomb Preservision Soft Gel Lutein: This vitamin also has lutein, in addition to Vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper. This gel cap does not have beta carotene. There was a suggestion in AREDS that patients with a high dietary intake of leafy green vegetables containing lutein may derive some benefit for their macular degeneration.
Alcon I-Cap MV: This vitamin also has lutein, in addition to Vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper. This caplet does not have beta carotene. There was a suggestion in AREDS that patients with a high dietary intake of leafy green vegetables containing lutein may derive some benefit for their macular degeneration. This hypothesis is being tested in a new clinical trial, AREDS-2. Until the results of AREDS-2 are known, it is your choice as to whether you would like to take lutein supplements. As for the other vitamins and minerals in the Alcon I-Cap MV, there is no hard evidence to show that those benefit patients with macular degeneration.