Saturday, 15 June 2013

AREDS II Study Resolves Beta-Carotene Issues

By Teri Farley

Age-Related Eye Disease Study II, or AREDS II, is a study that looked at how nutrients affect eyesight. The initial study, completed in 2001, showed that high levels of antioxidants sometimes reduced the risk of developing blindness by 25 percent. There were some problems found after the study though and the subsequent study looked at those issues.

People with eye disease have said that it is very debilitating. This affects nearly a million people, around 90% elderly, in the United States. People can develop eye disease in several ways. Some are born blind because of defects during the pregnancy. Others go blind after injury or due to diabetes complications. The majority of people that are blind have suffered cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is an aging disease.

Most treatments that exist today are only good for a limited range of eye diseases and have limited efficacy. One of the most common currently available treatments is laser surgery; while it has been shown to reduce the risks of blindness, the surgery is very costly and could even result in complications. Although not usually severe, the side effects are quite common; some of these include loss of peripheral vision, reduced night vision, worsening visual acuity, and even hemorrhaging.

The first Age-Related Eye Disease Study was released in 2001. The purpose of this study was to learn more about the risk factors surrounding age-related macular degeneration and cataracts and to research the history of the victims. They also wanted to determine whether high doses of antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc would have any effect on AMD and cataracts.

In the first study, the researchers found that a high level of antioxidants could reduce the possibility of blindness in high risk individuals by about 25 percent. High risk individuals were those who either already had intermediate AMD or AMD in only one of their eyes. However, one ingredient of the original formula was beta-carotene, which has been linked to an increase in risk of lung cancer for smokers. Additionally, there was no effect on cataracts.

The second study, completed in May 2013, had several interesting findings. One of their goals was to attempt to find a substitute for beta-carotene in the original formula. They found that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin could be substituted for beta-carotene without reducing the effectiveness of this formula. People at high risk for developing advanced AMD should consider taking the antioxidant combination to reduce their chance of blindness.

A lot of the elderly are already on various prescriptions. In addition to this they may use over-the-counter drugs or supplements. The high-dose supplements in this combination could interfere or cause some of these medications to lose their effectiveness.

Laser surgery has definite benefits but is expensive and can cause serious complications. An alternative may be the combination formulated by the researchers in the AREDS II study. They found that high levels of antioxidants, combined with vitamins and zinc, reduced AMD risk. They also discovered that zeaxanthin and lutein were adequate substitutes for beta-carotene, while not reducing the beneficial properties. Before you start any new medicines you should consult your physician.

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