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Louisville, KY, United States, 2009/03/17 - Combination of B vitamins and folate may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, study shows.
A new study shows that taking B vitamins can help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in older women. The study is the first to show a potential benefit from B vitamins in AMD and addresses a disease that affects nearly two million Americans.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people 65 and older. It damages the retina, the light sensing layer in the eye, affecting the center of the field of vision and making it difficult to recognize faces, read and drive.
“Although damage to the retina can be limited with laser treatment and injection of medication into the eye, presently our ability to prevent AMD is limited. The results of this study, if confirmed, may help to prevent many cases of vision loss from AMD,” said Dr. Howard Lazarus, a retina specialist at the John-Kenyon American Eye Institute.
The women in the study who took a combination of B vitamins -- B-6, folic acid and B-12 -- reduced their risk of macular degeneration by more than one-third after seven years compared with women taking placebos. The study involved more than 5,000 women ages 40 and older at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Although the results of the study are highly encouraging, Dr. Lazarus cautions that it is still too early to recommend taking these vitamins. The patients in the study were all woman with risk of cardiovascular disease. It remains to be seen whether the study results can be duplicated and whether the same will apply to men and those without risk of cardiovascular disease. He also cautions that that anyone considering taking these vitamins should consult with their eye doctor. In some instances increased intake of vitamins can be harmful. For example, large doses of vitamin A in smokers may increase the risk of lung cancer. A recent study suggested increased intake of folate may increase the risk of prostate cancer in men.
For now, according to Dr. Lazarus, we should probably stick with what has been proven to reduce the risk of vision loss from AMD. Of these, quitting smoking is the most important. Additionally, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a 10-year-long National Institutes of Health-sponsored trial has shown that antioxidant therapy with a specific dose of vitamins A, C, E, and zinc may slow the progression of AMD; however, this is not recommended for all patients with AMD. Dr. Lazarus recommends that you consult with your eye care provider to determine what is best for you.