Study: Vitamins Combat Age-related Blindness
Tuesday, November 11, 2003 Posted at CNN.Com
CHICAGO, Illinois (Reuters) -- Hundreds of thousands of people could benefit from vitamin supplements shown to help prevent macular degeneration, a condition that is the leading cause of blindness from age 65, a study reported.
In 2001, researchers announced they had found a reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration and vision loss for test subjects who had been given high-dose antioxidant supplements -- vitamins C, E and beta carotene -- as well as zinc or zinc oxide.
In Monday's report, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore tried to estimate how many people in the United States alone would benefit from increasing supplement use.
They concluded there are 8 million Americans at least 55 years old thought to be at high risk for the problem. If all the people at risk took the supplements used in the earlier study, more than 300,000 of them would avoid advanced macular degeneration and any associated vision loss during the next five years, the study said.
"If even half of the individuals at high risk for (the condition) were identified and compliant with the recommended supplement, it is likely that more than 150,000 individuals would avoid vision loss for some time," said the study published in the November issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.
"These data suggest that the recommendation of such a supplement for these individuals should have a major impact on them as well as on the public health," the authors concluded.
In an editorial commenting on the study published in the same journal, Lee Jampol, a physician at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said the supplements should be used "only in patients with intermediate or advanced age-related macular degeneration."
"What about patients who have a strong family history of macular degeneration or who for other reasons believe that they are at risk for the disease and wish to take the (supplement) formulation prior to the development" of intermediate or advances cases of the problem, he asked.
"It appears appropriate to eat a diet rich in fruits and (especially green) vegetables, to supplement with a multivitamin and to undergo periodic ophthalmic examinations for the development of" the condition, he added.