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Omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids may benefit eye health

April 3, 2013

According to a new German study regular supplementation with a combination of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin increases the optical density of the macular pigment, potentially preventing the progression of age-related macular degeneration in patients.

The randomized controlled trial included 145 individuals aged 50 to 93, all with dry (nonexudative) age-related macular degeneration (AMD), who received either a daily capsule containing 10 mg of lutein, 1 mg of zeaxanthin, 100 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 30 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a capsule containing twice the dose of these micronutrients or a placebo for 12 months (1). The study results showed that in the supplemented participants, the plasma concentrations of the two carotenoids increased significant-ly and these levels were maintained throughout the trial. In addition, optical density of the macular pigment increased significantly in the treated groups, but was nearly unchanged in the placebo group. The pigment's density was slightly (non-significantly) higher in participants who received double the dose of micronutrients compared to those who received a single dose.

The researchers commented that the clinical importance of these findings is unknown, since they do not prove that supplementation prevents progression and/or development of AMD. The second Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS2), a large, randomized controlled trial that is expected to report results this spring, used the same micronutrients but at different doses and in different combinations (10 mg lutein, 2 mg zeaxanthin, 650 mg EPA, and 350 mg DHA). The average follow-up in approximately 4000 participants was nearly five years, giving AREDS2 the statistical power to detect whether progression to advanced AMD was prevented.

References

  1. Arnold C. et al. Macular xanthophylls and omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in age-related macular degeneration. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online March 2013.