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Copyright 2013 Natural Standard (
May 2012

Vitamins E, C May Not Reduce Risk for Vision Loss

Supplementation with vitamins E and C may not reduce the risk for age-related macular degeneration, according to a new study.

Macular degeneration is a degenerative disease of the retina (a thin layer of nerve cells that lines the back of the eyeball) that causes progressive loss of central vision. Like other antioxidants, vitamin E has been suggested to prevent, slow progression or improve macular degeneration. The scientific evidence in this area is not conclusive, although there is some suggestion that vitamin E alone or in combination with beta-carotene, may not be beneficial. There is also a lack of evidence showing the beneficial effects of vitamin C alone for this condition. Further research is warranted.

In a new study, researchers evaluated data on 14,236 healthy male physicians 50 years-old or younger without age-related macular degeneration at the start of the study. Each participant was randomly assigned to receive 400 international units of vitamin E or placebo every other day and 500 milligrams of vitamin C or placebo daily for eight years. Each participant reported any diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration. Questionnaires and medical records were also reviewed.

The researchers found that throughout the eight-year study, a total of 193 cases of age-related macular degeneration were diagnosed. The authors noted that there were close to an equal number of diagnoses of the disorder in both the vitamin E and C groups when compared to the placebo groups.

The authors concluded that longer-term vitamin E and C supplementation may have no effect on the risk for age-related macular degeneration. Further research in this area is warranted.

In addition to vitamins E and C, many other therapies have been reviewed for their potential preventative effects in age-related macular degeneration. Melatonin may exert antioxidant effects, which may contribute to its beneficial effects on the eyes. According to clinical research, melatonin may play a role in protecting the retina to delay macular degeneration. However, data are not conclusive. There is also preliminary research that suggests ginkgo may improve eye blood flow, although it remains unclear if macular degeneration is significantly affected by ginkgo.

For more information about integrative therapies for age-related macular degeneration, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about vitamins E or C, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

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  1. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Sesso HD, et al. Vitamins E and C and Medical Record-Confirmed Age-Related Macular Degeneration in a Randomized Trial of Male Physicians. Ophthalmology. 2012 Apr 13. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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