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Health Condition

Macular Degeneration

  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Coenzyme Q10, and Fish Oil

    In one study, supplementing with a proprietary blend of acetyl-L-carnitine, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10 improved visual function in people with macular degeneration.

    Dose:

    Follow label directions
    Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Coenzyme Q10, and Fish Oil
    ×
     

    In a double-blind study, supplementation with a proprietary blend of acetyl-L-carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, and coenzyme Q10 for 12 months resulted in an improvement in both visual function and in objective findings on eye examination (a decrease in the drusen-covered area on the retina).2

  • Ginkgo

    Taking ginkgo may help treat early stage macular degeneration.

    Dose:

    120 to 240 mg daily of a standardized herbal extract
    Ginkgo
    ×
     

    Ginkgo(Ginkgo biloba) may help treat early-stage macular degeneration, according to small, preliminary clinical trials.3 Many healthcare professionals recommend 120 to 240 mg of standardized extract (24% ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones) in capsules or tablets per day.

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin

    Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that protect the retina from damage caused by sunlight. Lutein has been shown to help people with both early and advanced stages of the disease.

    Dose:

    6 to 10 mg daily
    Lutein and Zeaxanthin
    ×

    Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants in the carotenoid family. These carotenoids, found in high concentrations in spinach, collard greens, and kale, have an affinity for the part of the retina where macular degeneration occurs. Once there, they protect the retina from damage caused by sunlight.4

    Harvard researchers reported that people eating the most lutein and zeaxanthin—an average of 5.8 mg per day—had a 57% decreased risk of macular degeneration, compared with people eating the least.5 While spinach and kale eaters have a lower risk of macular degeneration, blood levels of lutein did not correlate with risk of macular degeneration in one trial.6,7 In a double-blind study of people with macular degeneration, supplementation with lutein (10 mg per day) for one year significantly improved vision, compared with a placebo.8 Lutein was beneficial for people with both early and advanced stages of the disease. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be taken as supplements; 6 mg per day of lutein may be a useful amount.

  • Melatonin

    In one trial, melatonin improved eye abnormalities in the majority of cases. It appears to work by regulating eye pigmentation and by functioning as an antioxidant.

    Dose:

    Take under medical supervision: 3 mg daily at bedtime
    Melatonin
    ×
     

    In a preliminary trial, supplementation with melatonin (3 mg per day at bedtime for at least three months) resulted in an improvement in the abnormalities observed on eye examination in the majority of cases.9 Melatonin is believed to work by regulating eye pigmentation (and, consequently, the amount of light reaching the retina) and by functioning as an antioxidant.

  • Multivitamin

    In a study of people with macular degeneration, vision was the same or better in 88% people who took a multivitamin-mineral, compared with 59% of those who took a placebo.

    Dose:

    Follow label directions
    Multivitamin
    ×
     

    In a blinded six-month study of people with macular degeneration, vision was the same or better in 88% people who took a nutritional supplement, compared with 59% of those who refused to take the supplement (a statistically significant difference). The supplement used in this study contained beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, and riboflavin.10 People wishing to take all of these nutrients may supplement with a multivitamin-multimineral formula.

  • Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid

    In a double-blind study of female health professionals who had cardiovascular disease or risk factors, daily supplementation with folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 significantly decreased age-related macular degeneration.

    Dose:

    2.5 mg folic acid, 50 mg vitamin B6, and 1 mg vitamin B12
    Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and Folic Acid
    ×

    In a double-blind study of female health professionals who had cardiovascular disease or cardiovascular disease risk factors, daily supplementation with folic acid (2.5 mg), vitamin B6 (50 mg), and vitamin B12 (1 mg) for 7.3 years significantly decreased the incidence of age-related macular degeneration.11 

  • Zinc

    Two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require zinc. In one trial, zinc supplementation significantly reduced the rate of visual loss in people with macular degeneration.

    Dose:

    45 mg daily (with 1 to 2 mg of copper to protect against depletion)
    Zinc
    ×
     

    Two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require zinc. In a double-blind trial, supplementation with 45 mg of zinc per day for one to two years significantly reduced the rate of visual loss in people with macular degeneration.12 However, in another double-blind trial, supplementation with the same amount of zinc did not prevent vision loss among people with a particular type of macular degeneration (the exudative form).13

  • Beta-Carotene

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which can cause macular degeneration. Beta-carotene protects against oxidative damage and may reduce macular degeneration risk.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Beta-Carotene
    ×

    Caution: Synthetic beta-carotene has been linked to increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. Until more is known, smokers should avoid all beta-carotene supplements.

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which in turn can cause macular degeneration.14 Animals given antioxidants—which protect against oxidative damage—have a lower risk of this vision problem.15 People with high blood levels of antioxidants also have a lower risk.16 Those with the highest levels (top 20th percentile) of the antioxidants selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E may have a 70% lower risk of developing macular degeneration, compared with people with the lowest levels of these nutrients (bottom 20th percentile).17 People who eat fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, another antioxidant, are also at low risk.18 Some doctors recommend antioxidant supplements to reduce the risk of macular degeneration; reasonable adult levels include 200 mcg of selenium, 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, and 25,000 IU of natural beta-carotene per day. However, a preliminary study found no association between age-related macular degeneration and intake of antioxidants, either from the diet, from supplements, or from both combined.19 Moreover, in a double-blind study of male cigarette smokers, supplementing with vitamin E (50 IU per day), synthetic beta-carotene (about 33,000 IU per day), or both did not reduce the incidence of age-related macular degeneration.20

  • Bilberry

    Supplementing with bilberry may help prevent and treat early-stage macular degeneration.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Bilberry
    ×
     

    Bilberry’s active flavonoid compounds, anthocyanosides, act as antioxidants in the retina of the eye. Therefore, supplementing with bilberry would theoretically be of value for the prevention or treatment of early-stage macular degeneration.21 Bilberry has also been shown to strengthen capillaries and to reduce bleeding in the retina.22 A typical amount of bilberry used in studies was 480–600 mg per day of an extract standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides, taken in capsules or tablets.

  • Carotenoids

    Lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants in the carotenoid family, protect the retina from damage caused by sunlight.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Carotenoids
    ×

    Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants in the carotenoid family. These carotenoids, found in high concentrations in spinach, collard greens, and kale, have an affinity for the part of the retina where macular degeneration occurs. Once there, they protect the retina from damage caused by sunlight.23

    Harvard researchers reported that people eating the most lutein and zeaxanthin—an average of 5.8 mg per day—had a 57% decreased risk of macular degeneration, compared with people eating the least.24 While spinach and kale eaters have a lower risk of macular degeneration, blood levels of lutein did not correlate with risk of macular degeneration in one trial.25,26 In a double-blind study of people with macular degeneration, supplementation with lutein (10 mg per day) for one year significantly improved vision, compared with a placebo.27 Lutein was beneficial for people with both early and advanced stages of the disease. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be taken as supplements; 6 mg per day of lutein may be a useful amount.

  • Fish Oil

    A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, especially from fish, has been associated with lower risks of age-related macular degeneration.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Fish Oil
    ×
    An assessment of 3,654 Australians aged 49 years or older found an association between a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish and a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration.28
  • Goji Berry

    As a rich source of zeaxanthin, goji berries may be beneficial.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Goji Berry
    ×
     

    Goji berries are also a rich source of zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that when consumed becomes concentrated in the macular pigment of the eye and may help protect the retina.29,30 Both human and monkey studies have shown that consuming goji berries or extracts high in zeaxanthin raises blood levels of zeaxanthin,31,32,33,34 but only animal research has verified that goji berry consumption increases macular pigment, and no research has looked at whether goji berries provide protection from diseases of the retina.

  • Selenium

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which can cause macular degeneration. Selenium protects against oxidative damage and may reduce macular degeneration risk.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Selenium
    ×
     

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which in turn can cause macular degeneration.35 Animals given antioxidants—which protect against oxidative damage—have a lower risk of this vision problem.36 People with high blood levels of antioxidants also have a lower risk.37 Those with the highest levels (top 20th percentile) of the antioxidants selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E may have a 70% lower risk of developing macular degeneration, compared with people with the lowest levels of these nutrients (bottom 20th percentile).38 People who eat fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, another antioxidant, are also at low risk.39 Some doctors recommend antioxidant supplements to reduce the risk of macular degeneration; reasonable adult levels include 200 mcg of selenium, 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, and 25,000 IU of natural beta-carotene per day. However, a preliminary study found no association between age-related macular degeneration and intake of antioxidants, either from the diet, from supplements, or from both combined.40 Moreover, in a double-blind study of male cigarette smokers, supplementing with vitamin E (50 IU per day), synthetic beta-carotene (about 33,000 IU per day), or both did not reduce the incidence of age-related macular degeneration.41

  • Vitamin C

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which in turn can cause macular degeneration. Vitamin C protects against oxidative damage and may reduce macular degeneration risk.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Vitamin C
    ×

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which in turn can cause macular degeneration.42 Because vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, it has the potential to protect against macular degeneration. However, in a double-blind trial, supplementing with 500 mg of vitamin C daily for eight years did not decrease the incidence of macular degeneration in healthy male physicians.43

  • Vitamin E

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which in turn can cause macular degeneration. Vitamin E protects against oxidative damage and may reduce macular degeneration risk.

    Dose:

    Refer to label instructions
    Vitamin E
    ×
     

    Sunlight triggers oxidative damage in the eye, which in turn can cause macular degeneration.44 Animals given antioxidants—which protect against oxidative damage—have a lower risk of this vision problem.45 People with high blood levels of antioxidants also have a lower risk.46 Those with the highest levels (top 20th percentile) of the antioxidants selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E may have a 70% lower risk of developing macular degeneration, compared with people with the lowest levels of these nutrients (bottom 20th percentile).47 People who eat fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene, another antioxidant, are also at low risk.48 Some doctors recommend antioxidant supplements to reduce the risk of macular degeneration; reasonable adult levels include 200 mcg of selenium, 1,000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, and 25,000 IU of natural beta-carotene per day. However, a preliminary study found no association between age-related macular degeneration and intake of antioxidants, either from the diet, from supplements, or from both combined.49 Moreover, in a double-blind study of male cigarette smokers, supplementing with vitamin E (50 IU per day), synthetic beta-carotene (about 33,000 IU per day), or both did not reduce the incidence of age-related macular degeneration.50 Another double-blind trial found that supplementing with 600 IU of vitamin E every other day did not reduce the incidence of age-related macular degeneration in healthy women.51

What Are Star Ratings
×
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

References

1. National Advisory Eye Council. Report of the Retinal and Choroidal Diseases Panel: Vision Research CA National Plan: 1983-1987. Bethesda, MD: US Dept of Health and Human Services, 1984. National Institutes of Health publication 83-2471.

2. Feher J, Kovacs B, Kovacs I, et al. Improvement of visual functions and fundus alterations in early age-related macular degeneration treated with a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine, n-3 fatty acids, and coenzyme Q10. Ophthalmologica2005;219:154-66.

3. Lebuisson DA, Leroy L, Reigal G. Treatment of senile macular degeneration with Ginkgo biloba extract: a preliminary double-blind study versus placebo. In Rokan (Ginkgo biloba): Recent Results in Pharmacology and Clinic, Fünfgeld FW, ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1988, 231-6.

4. Bone RA. Landrum JT. Distribution of macular pigment components, zeaxanthin and lutein, in human retina. Methods Enzymol 1992:213:360-6.

5. Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. JAMA 1994;272:1413-20.

6. Blumenkranz MS, Russell SR, Robey MG, et al. Risk factors in age-related maculopathy complicated by choroidal neovascularization. Ophthalmology 1986:93:552-8.

7. Mares-Perlman JA, Brady WE, Kleain R, et al. Serum antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration in a population-based case-control study. Arch Ophthalmol 1995;113:1518-23.

8. Richer S, Stiles W, Statkute L, et al. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry 2004;75:216-30.

9. Yi C, Pan X, Yan H, et al. Effects of melatonin in age-related macular degeneration. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2005;1057:384-92.

10. Olson RJ. Supplemental dietary anoxidant vitamins and minerals in patients with macular degeneration. J Am Coll Nutr 1991;10:550.

11. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Chew EY, et al. Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Arch Intern Med 2009;169:335-41.

12. Newsome DA, Swartz M, Leone NC, et al. Oral zinc in macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 1988:106:192-8.

13. Stur M, Tihl M, Reitner A, Meisinger V. Oral zinc and the second eye in age-related macular degeneration. Invest Ophtholmol 1966;37:1225-35.

14. Young RW. Solar radiation and age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol 1988:32:252-69.

15. Katz ML, Parker KR, Handelman GJ, et al. Effects of antioxidant nutrient deficiency on the retina and retinal pigment epithelium of albino rats: a light and electron microscopic study. Exp Eye Res 1982;34:339-69.

16. West S, Vitale S, Hallfrisch J, et al. Are anti-oxidants or supplements protective of age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol 1994:112:222-7.

17. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Antioxidant status and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 1993:111:104-9.

18. Goldberg J, Flowerdew G, Smith E, et al. Factors associated with age-related macular degeneration. Am J Epidemiol 1988:128:700-10.

19. Smith W, Mitchell P, Webb K, Leeder SR. Dietary antioxidants and age-related maculopathy: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1999;106:761-7.

20. Teikari JM, Laatikainen L, Virtamo J, et al. Six-year supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related maculopathy. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1998;76:224-9.

21. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsblatt Augenheilk 1981;178:386–9.

22. Mian E, Curri SB, Lietti A, Bombardelli E. Anthocyanosides and the walls of microvessels: Further aspects of the mechanism of action of their protective in syndromes due to abnormal capillary fragility. Minerva Med 1977;68:3565-81.

23. Bone RA. Landrum JT. Distribution of macular pigment components, zeaxanthin and lutein, in human retina. Methods Enzymol 1992:213:360-6.

24. Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. JAMA 1994;272:1413-20.

25. Blumenkranz MS, Russell SR, Robey MG, et al. Risk factors in age-related maculopathy complicated by choroidal neovascularization. Ophthalmology 1986:93:552-8.

26. Mares-Perlman JA, Brady WE, Kleain R, et al. Serum antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration in a population-based case-control study. Arch Ophthalmol 1995;113:1518-23.

27. Richer S, Stiles W, Statkute L, et al. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry 2004;75:216-30.

28. Chua B, Flood V, Rochtchina E, Wang JJ, Smith W, Mitchell P. Dietary fatty acids and the 5-year incidence of age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol 2006;124:981-6.

29. Peng Y, Ma C, Li Y, et al. Quantification of zeaxanthin dipalmitate and total carotenoids in lycium fruits (Fructus Lycii). Plant Foods Hum Nutr 2005;60:161-4.

30. Zhou L, Leung I, Tso MO, Lam KW. The identification of dipalmityl zeaxanthin as the major carotenoid in Gou Qi Zi by high pressure liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 1999;15:557-65.

31. Khachik F, Beecher GR, Smith JC Jr. Lutein, lycopene, and their oxidative metabolites in chemoprevention of cancer. J Cell Biochem Suppl 1995;22:236-46.

32. Cheng CY, Chung WY, Szeto YT, Benzie IF. Fasting plasma zeaxanthin response to Fructus barbarum L. (wolfberry; Kei Tze) in a food-based human supplementation trial. Br J Nutr 2005;93:123-30.

33. Benzie IF, Chung WY, Wang J, et al. Enhanced bioavailability of zeaxanthin in a milk-based formulation of wolfberry (Gou Qi Zi; Fructus barbarum L.). Br J Nutr 2006;96:154-60.

34. Leung I, Tso M, Li W, Lam T. Absorption and tissue distribution of zeaxanthin and lutein in rhesus monkeys after taking Fructus lycii (Gou Qi Zi) extract. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2001;42:466-71.

35. Young RW. Solar radiation and age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol 1988:32:252-69.

36. Katz ML, Parker KR, Handelman GJ, et al. Effects of antioxidant nutrient deficiency on the retina and retinal pigment epithelium of albino rats: a light and electron microscopic study. Exp Eye Res 1982;34:339-69.

37. West S, Vitale S, Hallfrisch J, et al. Are anti-oxidants or supplements protective of age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol 1994:112:222-7.

38. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Antioxidant status and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 1993:111:104-9.

39. Goldberg J, Flowerdew G, Smith E, et al. Factors associated with age-related macular degeneration. Am J Epidemiol 1988:128:700-10.

40. Smith W, Mitchell P, Webb K, Leeder SR. Dietary antioxidants and age-related maculopathy: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1999;106:761-7.

41. Teikari JM, Laatikainen L, Virtamo J, et al. Six-year supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related maculopathy. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1998;76:224-9.

42. Young RW. Solar radiation and age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol 1988:32:252-69.

43. 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;119:1642-9.

44. Young RW. Solar radiation and age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol 1988:32:252-69.

45. Katz ML, Parker KR, Handelman GJ, et al. Effects of antioxidant nutrient deficiency on the retina and retinal pigment epithelium of albino rats: a light and electron microscopic study. Exp Eye Res 1982;34:339-69.

46. West S, Vitale S, Hallfrisch J, et al. Are anti-oxidants or supplements protective of age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol 1994:112:222-7.

47. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Antioxidant status and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 1993:111:104-9.

48. Goldberg J, Flowerdew G, Smith E, et al. Factors associated with age-related macular degeneration. Am J Epidemiol 1988:128:700-10.

49. Smith W, Mitchell P, Webb K, Leeder SR. Dietary antioxidants and age-related maculopathy: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1999;106:761-7.

50. Teikari JM, Laatikainen L, Virtamo J, et al. Six-year supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related maculopathy. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1998;76:224-9.

51. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Chew EY, Buring JE. Vitamin E and age-related macular degeneration in a randomized trial of women. Ophthalmology 2010;117:1163-8.

52. Smith W, Mitchell P, Leeder SR. Dietary fat and fish intake and age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol 2000;118:401-4.

53. Mares-Perlman JA, Brady WE, Klein R, et al. Dietary fat and age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol 1995;113:743-8.

54. Smith W, Mitchell P. Alcohol intake and age-related maculopathy. Am J Ophthalmol 1996;122:743-5.

55. Ajani UA, Christen WG, Manson JE, et al. A prospective study of alcohol consumption and the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Ann Epidemiol 1999;9:172-7.

56. Moss SE, Klein R, Klein BE, et al. Alcohol consumption and the 5-year incidence of age-related maculopathy: the Beaver Dam eye study. Ophthalmology 1998;105:789-94.

57. Ritter LL, Klein R, Klein BE, et al. Alcohol use and age-related maculopathy in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Am J Ophthalmol 1995;120:190-6.

58. Obisesan TO, Hirsch R, Kosoko O, et al. Moderate wine consumption is associated with decreased odds of developing age-related macular degeneration in NHANES-1. J Am Geriatr Soc 1998;46:1-7.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

Learn more about TraceGains, the company.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.