Second sight

Maybe you’ve heard of the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) before. If not, let me fill you in on the details.

The National Eye Institute funded this study, which wrapped up in 2001. And it showed that a high-dose combo of five different nutrients–vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and the minerals zinc and copper–can put the brakes on age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

As you may know, AMD is a leading cause of blindness. So the fact that a nutritional supplement can slow this disease’s progression is a pretty big deal.

Nevertheless, researchers wanted to see if they could improve upon the original AREDS formulation. So they launched AREDS2, a five-year study that began in 2006.

Among other changes, this study examined whether adding omega-3 fatty acids or a combo of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin into the mix would make the supplement more effective.

The conclusion? Omega-3s don’t make a difference. And neither do lutein or zeaxanthin.

These results appeared in the Journal of American Medical Association just this month. And two things stand out to me about them.

The first is the low dose of omega-3s this study used–a mere 1,000 mg of DHA/EPA. As you might recall, I usually recommend three times that much.

But regardless of the accuracy of this finding, multiple studies do support a link between fish consumption and lower risk of AMD. So I wouldn’t go tossing that fish oil just yet.

The same goes for lutein and zeaxanthin. Research clearly shows that getting more of these critical nutrients in your diet can slash AMD risk significantly. So you have nothing to lose by filling up on carotenoid-rich leafy greens.

What’s more, subjects with low dietary intake of these nutrients did enjoy a benefit–namely, a 25 percent lower risk of advanced AMD–from supplementation. So it almost seems silly not to recommend it, knowing what we know about the typical American diet.

Still, it’s nice to see the value of any nutritional supplements confirmed once again–by the National Institutes of Health, no less.

And the timing of these results couldn’t be better, either. As luck would have it, AMD is a featured topic in the upcoming issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives.

Lutein + Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Age-Related Macular Degeneration: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2013 May 5:1-11.