Zeaxanthin Supplements as Effective as Lutein in AMD

Tinker Ready

November 01, 2011

November 1, 2011 — The dietary supplement zeaxanthin improved vision just as well as the supplement lutein in older men who had early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to a small study published in the November issue of Optometry.

Both lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in the color pigment of the eye. Studies have found that food rich in lutein may play a role in preventing and improving the symptoms of AMD. It is less clear whether supplements are effective, although they are being marketed as a treatment for loss of vision.

Stuart P. Richer, OD, PhD, from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Facility in North Chicago, Illinois, and colleagues looked at patients who did not have traditional risk factors for AMD, but had a less severe form of age-related vision loss.

The researchers conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial of 60 older patients (57 men, 3 women; average age, 74.9 years) with mild-to-moderate AMD. The study participants were randomly assigned to receive 8 mg zeaxanthin (n = 25), 8 mg zeaxanthin plus 9 mg lutein (n = 25), or 9 mg lutein ("faux placebo," control group, n = 10). The authors note that in the absence of a large-scale randomized controlled study, the Food and Drug Administration approved the group's designation of the lutein-only group as what is known as a faux placebo.

Using a visual test designed to identify early signs of AMD, the researchers found that the vision in the zeaxanthin group sharpened from 0.97 to 0.57 (P > 0.06, 1-tail). A larger percentage of patients experienced clearing of their or blind spots or kinetic visual field central scotomas (P > .057).

The researchers noted that although 5.5 million Americans will need treatment to avoid vision loss from neovascular AMD, also known as wet AMD, many more will develop a less severe form of the disease known as retinal pigment epithelium/photoreceptor atrophy. By 2050, about 55 million Americans are expected to develop retinal pigment epithelium, which the researchers described as "visually disabling."

Both supplements increased the amount of the carotenoid in the eye, and the researchers concluded that "there is little doubt" that raising macular pigment via zeaxanthin supplementation improves vision in patients with AMD with lesser disease.

Support was provided by the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Facility, North Chicago, Illinois, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Research Service/CARES. The primary sponsor was instrument maker Kowa Optimed, Inc. Chrysantis, Inc; Stereo Optical, Inc; Rush Ophthalmics, Inc; Pharmanex, Inc; ZeaVision, Inc; Heidelberg Instruments, Inc; and RTVue all provided instrumentation as secondary sponsors. Dr. Richer is a consultant to Stereo Optical Company Inc, which manufactures the Functional Vision Analyzer, and to Annidis Health Systems.

Optometry. 2011;82:667-680. Abstract

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