Vitamin B Lowers Risk of Macular Degeneration

“B” Vitamins could lower the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.  The results of a new study showed the benefit of folic acid, B-6 and B-12 vitamin supplements when used to reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

The author of the Vitamin B study, William Christen indicated “This is the first randomized trial to indicate a possible benefit of folic acid, B-6 and B-12 vitamin supplements in reducing the risks of age-related macular degeneration”.  Christen is an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Data was collected from more than 5,200 women over the age of 40.  These women had reported that they did not suffer from or were not diagnosed with macular degeneration.

In the random study, women were assigned to take either a daily combination of folic acid, B-6 and B-12 vitamin supplements or a placebo.  Each year, study participants were required to complete questionnaires and over a seven year period, these questionnaires were used to track adherence to the vitamin supplements.  Also tracked was the development of new diseases.

At the end of the study on the affects of vitamin B supplements on macular degeneration, 55 cases of age-related macular degeneration were confirmed in the vitamin group and 82 cases in the placebo group.

Through the study, patients who took the vitamin supplements were shown to be at a 41 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with macular degeneration.

While the study involved only women, researchers concluded that these findings would probably apply to a more broader range of the aging population.

Christen stated “These findings are the first to suggest a possible early prevention measure,” when talking about the benefits of this study for those patients at a high risk of being diagnosed with macular degeneration.

With an estimated 1.75 million people having advanced macular degeneration and 7.3 million with early stage macular degeneration in the United States alone, the implications of such a prevention or reduction in the risks associated with this disease is enormous.  Currently, there are only a few treatments of macular degeneration, and most of those treatments are for the advanced form of the disease.

In explaining why the B Vitamin supplements may have reduced the risk of macular degeneration, Christen explains “It’s fairly well established that folic acid, B-6 and B-12 can reduce blood levels of homocysteine, so there’s a reason to suspect a possible benefit.”  High levels of an amino acid, homocysteine have been previously linked to a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

Christen is quick to point out that more research is needed to determine the true benefit of B vitamins for eye health, including more rigourous screening of patients for the existence of macular degeneration prior to the start of another study.

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