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Researchers Offer AREDS2 Insight

Aging Population Drives Eye Health Market

A formula that includes beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin E has been shown to help reduce the risk of an eye condition that is the largest cause of severe vision loss in the United States: age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Twelve years ago, researchers divulged that the formulation in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) reduced the risk of advanced AMD by roughly 25 percent during a five-year period.  

The results were encouraging, prompting researchers to launch a separate trial in 2006 dubbed AREDS2.2 The formulation included 10 mg of lutein (as FloraGLO® from Kemin, 2 mg of zeaxanthin (as OPTISHARP® from DSM), 350 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), 650 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 25 mg zinc.

The primary question researchers sought to answer: Would adding to the formulation omega-3 fatty acids or the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin further reduce the risk of advanced AMD? The answer is no for the omega-3s, researchers disclosed in the AREDS2 findings. "And further evaluation show no other exploratory analysis that suggests omega-3 may be beneficial in any way for macular degeneration," Dr. Emily Chew, M.D., Deputy Clinical Director at the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated during a May 2012 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting in Seattle.

Researchers, however, discovered lutein/zeaxanthin was beneficial to patients. A subgroup of participants who had extremely low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet benefited from the supplements because it helped lower their risk of advanced AMD. Also, participants who took lutein and zeaxanthin without beta-carotene had a modest reduction in the risk of advanced AMD compared to participants who ingested the AREDS formula with beta-carotene. Investigators found no material changes in the effectiveness of the formulation when they lowered zinc. Further analyses confirmed the beneficial treatment effects of lutein and zeaxanthin, according to Dr. Chew. A "number of factors suggest lutein really is important," she said in a phone interview.

Learn more about the study's results in the Report "AREDSS2: A Deep Look," available in the INSIDER Eye Health Immersion Center.

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