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Aging Vision Loss Slows With New Antioxidant Supplement

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Researchers at Queens University Belfast have found a promising treatment for vision loss accompanied by aging. The condition, early age-related macular (AMD) degeneration, is a leading cause of blindness n the Western world. Scientists studied 400 people to find that supplements containing high levels of carotenoids, antioxidants found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables can slow vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration.

The research took place over five years. Professor Usha Chakravarthy, from Queen's Centre of Vision and Vascular Science (CVVS) led the study that showed high intakes of carotenoids slowed degeneration of the eye, sharpening vision. Macular degeneration affects the central portion of the eye, causing blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision and eventually blindness. The disease is incurable. The supplement shows much promise for treating vision loss from age-related macular degeneration.

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"Late AMD causes severe sight loss and has a huge economic impact both in terms of the effects of sight loss itself and in terms of the expensive treatments that are needed to deal with the condition”, says Chakravarthy. The supplement contains carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are also concentrated in the macula of the eye. Using high levels of antioxidants to treat age-related macular degeneration would reduce the societal and economic burden of dealing with one of the leading causes of blindness.

The supplement to treat vision loss also contained vitamins C, E and Zinc. The combination of antioxidants was shown to slow vision loss from age-related macular degeneration. A placebo group was also studied for comparison. The study showed that without the supplements vision loss occurred at a steady rate. The group receiving the antioxidant supplement experienced improved vision.

Dr Chakravarthy says the study is significant. "These findings are important because this is the first randomised controlled clinical trial to document a beneficial effect through improved function and maintained macular pigments”. The study shows that vision loss from macular degeneration could be treated with high level of antioxidant supplements, improving quality of life and reducing health care costs. More studies are needed to confirm the supplement’s benefits for treatment of age-related macular degeneration, but preliminary results are promising.

Queen's University Belfast