As the population continues to age at an unprecedented rate, the concern about age-related eye disease comes more into focus.
According to the US Census Bureau, the population of adults over age 65 is expected to double by 2025, and the American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that the incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is expected to triple during the same time period.
In 2010, more than 10 million people were affected by AMD, and looking even further into the future, that number is expected to jump 150 percent by 2050, based on the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) Projections for AMD.
The leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50, AMD damages the macula (center of the retina) and as the disease progresses, it blurs one’s central vision. AMD presents in two forms, wet and dry. Dry AMD is more common, and occurs when the visual cells in the macula slowly break down. Dry AMD that goes untreated can progress to wet AMD caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels under the macula. Wet AMD is considered advanced AMD and can lead to rapid loss of central vision, which is typically more severe than the dry form.
The NEI recently released the results of AREDS 2 (Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2), a five-year, 4,203 patient study of people between 50 and 85 years of age with intermediate AMD in both eyes, or advanced AMD in one eye.
The objective of the AREDS 2 Study was to determine if the addition of Zeaxanthin, Lutein, and Omega 3’s to the original AREDS formula would further reduce the progression to advanced AMD. Numerous clinical studies suggest these nutrients protect vision.
The original AREDS study results were released in 2001, and revealed that high-dose antioxidant vitamins and minerals including Vitamins C and E, Beta-Carotene, Zinc, and Copper reduced the risk of progression to advanced AMD by 25 percent, and the risk of moderate vision loss by 19 percent.
By adding Zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and Lutein to the original AREDS nutrients, study results demonstrated that the progression to advanced AMD was reduced by 9 percent when compared with no lutein and zeaxanthin, and an 18 percent reduction in progression to advanced AMD in subjects who received the AREDS supplement with lutein and zeaxanthin versus the original AREDS supplement with beta carotene.
Another important take-away from the AREDS 2 Study, which applies to most Americans, was a 26 percent reduction in progression to advanced AMD for subjects with the lowest dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin. In the US, dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is typically less than 1 mg per day – well below the 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin in the AREDS 2 Study.
A superior photo-protector and antioxidant, Zeaxanthin protects the cones in the eye which are responsible for our central vision. Lutein, the other predominant macular pigment, protects the rods in the eye, which are responsible for our peripheral vision. Both of these macular pigments act like internal sunglasses to protect and enhance vision.
The AREDS 2 Study also included supplementation of the Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. While Omega-3s did not prove beneficial in slowing the progression to advanced AMD, DHA is a major component of the retina, and both EPA and DHA have been identified as important compounds to support eye health, heart health, and other organ systems.
Finally, in the original AREDS study, approximately two thirds of the subjects also took a multi-vitamin daily, and 90 percent of subjects in the AREDS 2 Study consumed a multi-vitamin. Multi-vitamins contain other essential ingredients that benefit eye and overall health.
The AREDS 2 Study demonstrates that AMD progression can be slowed through eye vitamin consumption, and many other clinical studies confirm that healthy macular pigment density protects and enhances vision. Eye vitamin brands like EyePromise feature optimal levels of these protective macular pigments along with other natural nutrients essential for ocular health.
Consult your Eye Care Professional about age-related eye disease and the importance of the new AREDS 2 Study.