Supplements for Macular Degeneration

The pivotal research in this area are the two Age-Related Eye Disease Studies, AREDS and AREDS2 .

The original AREDS trial performed by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) started in 1996. It involved over 4,000 participants, lasted for five years and was placebo-controlled, meaning the comparison group took a tablet that did not contain the AREDS formulation. It found that specific high doses of vitamins and minerals can help slow the progression to advanced Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). 

The only contradictions found during the study were that high dose beta-carotene leads to an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers or anyone who has smoked previously. High doses of zinc can cause minor gastro-intestinal disturbances and lower copper levels in the body (this is why the AREDS formula contains copper). 


Since then, other ingredients thought to be beneficial to the eyes have been tested. The AREDS2 trial started in 2006 and again involved more than 4,000 participants. Over the next five years it examined whether these newer ingredients could improve the original AREDS formulation. This trial compared the performance of the original AREDS formulation with various other combinations including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin as well as EPA/DHA (omega 3 fatty acids), such as those found in oily fish.

The researchers measured the progression to advanced AMD by examining images of the back of the eye for yellow deposits called drusen or by commencing treatment for advanced AMD. The results were announced during a Special Session at ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) on May 5th 2013 and they recommended a new formulation as the best thing to take to help stabilise macular degeneration:

  • Lutein (10mg)
  • Zeaxanthin (2mg)
  • Vitamin C (500mg)
  • Vitamin E (400IU)
  • Zinc (25mg)
  • Copper


Although there are a lot of 'eye health' supplements on the market very few of them contain this exact AREDS2 formulation, so make your selection carefully. Some products also contain additional ingredients (such as omega-3, bilberry or meso-zexanthin) and these are optional extras. That means the beneficial effects have not been as well researched  or proven but you may wish to include them.

The causes and risk factors for degeneration in eye health are many and complicated. We advise you take the following simple steps to help reduce your risk of exacerbating the problem: 

• If you smoke, stop
• Reduce exposure to UV light
• Eat a diet rich in green leafy vegetables
• Eat a diet rich in oily fish
• Take an AREDS2 supplement

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