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Vitamin B, Folic Acid May Reduce Risk Of Age-Related Vision Loss

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans and the only previously known prevention method is not smoking. New research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital finds that taking a combination of vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid appears to decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration in women.

“Women taking the supplements had a 34 percent lower risk of any AMD and a 41 percent lower risk of visually significant AMD. The beneficial effects began approximately two years after the start of treatment and lasted throughout the trial,” said William G. Christen, Sc.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston,

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Christen and colleagues conducted a randomized, double-blind clinical trial involving 5,442 women age 40 and older who already had heart disease or at least three risk factors. Of these, 5,205 did not have AMD at the beginning of the study. In April 1998, these women were randomly assigned to take a placebo or a combination of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Participants continued the therapy through July 2005 and were tracked for the development of AMD through November 2005.

Over an average of 7.3 years of treatment and follow-up, 137 new cases of AMD were documented, including 70 cases that significantly affected vision. Of these, 55 AMD cases, 26 visually significant, occurred in the 2,607 women in the active treatment group, whereas 82 of the 2,598 women in the placebo group developed AMD, 44 cases of which were visually significant.

“These findings apply to the early stages of disease development and may be the first identified way—other than not smoking—to reduce the risk of AMD in individuals at an average risk.” Christensen said. “From a public health perspective, this is particularly important because persons with early AMD are at increased risk of developing advanced AMD, which is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in older Americans.”