AREDS II Study Resolves Beta-Carotene Issues

By Teri Farley

Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 or AREDS II is a study of how nutrients can affect the eyesight. The first study, conducted in 2001, had shown that a high level of antioxidants could reduce the risk of blindness up to 25 percent. However, there were problems with the formulation and the second study effectively addressed these issues.

One very debilitating illnesses is that of blindness. In the United States there are nearly one million people that are blind. 90 percent of the blind are older. Eye disease can come about several ways. There are some people who are born blind. This can be as a result of problems in gestation or childbirth. Others go blind as a result of diabetes or they injure their eyes. Most blindness is caused by getting old.

There are some treatments available today, but most of them work only for a certain segment of affected people. Many people have used laser surgery and it has been found to be very effective. However, it is expensive and has side effects that could actually worsen sight. Side effects from laser surgery are not uncommon, although they are rarely severe. Still, they can cause you to lose your peripheral vision, can worsen your visual acuity, can reduce your night vision, or can even cause 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.

Researchers from the first study found that their formula could lessen the chance of blindness by 25%, in people who were considered to be in a high risk category. This category included people who had serious AMD in one eye already, or who had a milder form in both eyes. This only helped people with AMD risk and had no effect on whether someone would get cataracts. This was exciting news, however, later studies showed that the beta-carotene was linked to a cancer risk. People who smoked, and also took beta-carotene, had a higher incident of lung cancer.

The next study was finished in May 2013 and had some interesting results. One goal that they had was to discern whether an adequate substitute existed for the beta-carotene. They tried lutein and zeaxanthin and found that they were as effective as the beta-carotene. For people at high risk of advanced AMD this is an important consideration and could help lessen the possibility of developing blindness.

Many older persons are on prescription medications. Also, they use many over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. High-dose supplemental nutrients could interfere with some of these medications and keep other vital nutrients from properly absorbing.

Laser surgery has some great effects but it is expensive and it can have serious complications. The initial formula discovered in the AREDS II may be a safer alternative to surgery. This study has confirmed that the formula of antioxidants and zinc reduce AMD risk. Furthermore, the study revealed that lutein and zeaxanthin were effective substitutes for beta-carotene. Before using any new medication please be sure to speak to your doctor.

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