Age-Related Eye Disease Study
- investigate the natural history and risk factors of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, and
- evaluate the effects of high doses of antioxidants and zinc on the progression of the two conditions in those with AMD
The study of 3600 individuals for an average of 6.3 years concluded that high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce some people's risk of developing advanced AMD by about 25 percent. Those that benefited from the dietary supplements included those with intermediate-stage AMD and those with advanced AMD in one eye only. The supplements had no significant effect on the development or progression of cataracts. "High levels" in this case were defined to be:
- 500 milligrams of vitamin C;
- 400 international units of vitamin E;
- 15 milligrams of beta-carotene (or 25,000 international units of vitamin A);
- 80 milligrams of the dietary mineral zinc, in the form of zinc oxide; and
- two milligrams of copper as cupric oxide, added to prevent copper deficiency anemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake.
The results were reported in the October 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
Bausch & Lomb was a collaborator in the study and provides vitamins pre-packaged with this formulation, sold commercially as Ocuvite PreserVision antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplement, as do other suppliers, for example, Viteyes AREDS formula eye vitamins.
The study was followed by AREDS2, a five-year study designed to test whether the original AREDS formulation would be improved by adding omega-3 fatty acids; adding lutein and zeaxanthin; removing beta-carotene; or reducing zinc.  In AREDS2, participants took one of four AREDS formulations: the original AREDS formulation, AREDS formulation with no beta-carotene, AREDS with low zinc, AREDS with no beta-carotene and low zinc. In addition, they took one of four additional supplement or combinations including lutein and zeaxanthin (10 mg and 2 mg), omega-3 fatty acids (1,000 mg), lutein/zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids, or placebo. The study reported that there was no overall additional benefit from adding omega-3 fatty acids or lutein and zeaxanthin to the formulation. However, the study did find benefits in two subgroups of participants: those not given beta-carotene, and those who had very little lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets. Removing beta-carotene did not curb the formulation's protective effect against developing advanced AMD, which was important given that high doses of beta-carotene had been linked to higher risk of lung cancers in smokers.