Updated AREDS Vitamin Research Warning

Updated AREDS Vitamin Research Warning

Posted under Eye Health, Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

Some of the most commonly prescribed eye vitamins for macular degeneration are ones that follow the recommendation from the Age Related Eye Disease study (AREDS).  A ten year study conducted by the National Eye Institute which began in September 1990 with the first published results in 2001 concluded that “taking high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of developing advanced age related macular degeneration by about 25 percent.”  On the front of many eye vitamin bottles you will often see “AREDS Formula.”  A second study called the Age Related Eye Disease study 2 (AREDS 2) was conducted to determine the effects of reducing the amount of zinc in the original AREDS formula on the development and progression of age related macular degeneration.  The original AREDS formula included 80 mg of zinc oxide which benefited some participants but others experienced some side effects.  The AREDS 2 formula reduced the amount of zinc to 40 mg.

New information became available when the DNA of the original AREDS participants was analyzed in 2013. As a result of this analysis, an urgent warning was issued this year from the Macular Degeneration Association about zinc supplementation. The data from the National Eye Institute was reviewed by Dr. Rafal Kustra from the University of Toronto and by Dr. Bernard Rosner, Professor of Medicine in the Department of Biostatistics at Harvard Medical School’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health.  The reviews discovered that zinc can be harmful to patient populations with a certain genetic profile.

“AREDS supplements have been shown to benefit the average patient with moderate macular degeneration, but our research suggests that this average benefit is the result of significantly different individual responses,” says Carl Awh, MD, a retina specialist from Nashville, Tenn. “The AREDS supplement was beneficial for most patients, but almost 15% did worse with treatment than with placebo. This adverse outcome appears to be due to the high-dose zinc component of the AREDS formulation. More research is indicated but, in the meantime, I perform genetic testing to select the optimal nutritional supplement for each patient.”

According to MDA founder and chairman, Lawrence Hoffheimer, a retired healthcare attorney and federal prosecutor whose mother has AMD, genetic testing “can help patients with intermediate dry macular degeneration determine if the zinc component of the popular AREDS formula might actually be doing more harm than good.”

To find out more about this warning and how to make a more informed decision about supplementing with an AREDS eye vitamin formula visit:

Macular Degeneration Association AREDS Supplement Warning

Leslie Degner, RN, BSN