NIH study confirms benefits of supplements to reduce age-related macular degeneration

News Release

Thursday, June 2, 2022

After 10 years, the AREDS2 formula benefits from the elimination of beta-carotene and increases its effectiveness compared to the original formula.

Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) have found that dietary supplements can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in older Americans. In the new report, the researchers analyzed 10 years of AREDS2 data. They showed that the AREDS2 formula, which replaces the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin instead of beta-carotene, was more effective in reducing the risk of developing AMD than the original formula without reducing the risk of lung cancer due to beta-carotene. A report on the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

“Because beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer for current smokers in two studies supported by NIH, our goal with AREDS2 was to create an equally effective complement formula that anyone could use, whether they smoked or not,” said Emily Chu. , MD, Director of Epidemiology and Clinical Application at the National Eye Institute (NEI) and co-author of the research report. “This 10-year data confirms that the new formula is not only safer, but also better at slowing down AMD’s progress.”

AMD is a degenerative disease of the retina of the light-sensitive tissue behind the eye. The progressive death of the retinal cells in the cornea, the part of the retina that provides the central vision, eventually leads to blindness. Treatment slows or reverses vision loss; however, there is no cure for AMD.

The original AREDS study, which began in 1996, showed that the formula of dietary supplements (500 mg of vitamin C, 400 international units of vitamin E, 2 mg of copper, 80 mg of zinc and 15 mg of beta-carotene) significantly slowed the progression of AMD. moderate and late disease. However, two series of studies have also shown that people who smoke and take beta-carotene have a significantly higher risk of lung cancer than expected.

At AREDS2, which began in 2006, Chew and colleagues compared the beta-carotene formula with 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin. Like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that have retinal activity. Beta-carotene-containing formulations were given only to participants who had never smoked or quit smoking.

By the end of the five-year AREDS2 study period, the researchers concluded that lutein and zeaxanthin did not increase the risk of lung cancer, and that the new structure could reduce the risk of AMD progression by approximately 26%. At the end of the five-year study period, study participants were offered the latest AREDS2 formulation containing lutein and zeaxanthin instead of beta-carotene.

In this new report, researchers tracked 3,883 of the 4,203 initial participants in AREDS2 five years after completing the AREDS2 study in 2011 and collected information on whether they had been diagnosed with AMD late and whether they had been diagnosed. lung cancer. Although all participants switched to a formula containing lutein and zeaxanthin at the end of the study period, a subsequent study found that beta-carotene almost doubled the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Those taking lutein / zeaxanthin were not at risk for lung cancer. In addition, a group assigned to lutein / zeaxanthin 10 years later had an additional 20% lower risk of switching to late AMD than those initially assigned to receive beta-carotene.

“These results confirm that it was the right decision to change our formula from beta-carotene to lutein and zeaxanthin,” Chu said.

The study was funded through the NEI Intramural Program (EY000546) and contracts (AREDS2 contract HHS-N-260-2005-00007-C; ADB contract NO1-EY-5-0007; AREDS Contract NOI-EY-0-2127, and contract HHS- N-263-2013-00005-C). AREDS2 contracts were supported by the NIH Dietary Supplements Bureau, the National Center for Supplemental and Integrative Health, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood, and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. . The study was conducted at the NIH Clinical Center.

NEI leads the federal government’s study on vision and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs to develop treatments to save the eye and address the special needs of visually impaired people. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):The NIH, the country’s medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is a major federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research and studies the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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Chew EY, Clemons TE, Agron E, Domalpally A, Keenan TDL, Vitale S, Weber C, Smith DC, Christen W, for AREDS2 research group. “Long-term effects of lutein / zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on AREDS supplements on age-related macular degeneration progression: AREDS2 report №28. JAMA Ophthalmology. June 2, 2022.



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