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AREDS vitamins for AMD: Do They Work?

Yes and no. The National Eye Institute’s five-year study had mixed results. The study was called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and its follow up study was AREDS2. The vitamin and supplements used in that study are sold under the AREDS and AREDS2 name.

The study was conducted to investigate whether taking vitamins would slow or possibly prevent cataract formation and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

What the Study Found

Simply stated: If you have intermediate AMD, the AREDS/AREDS2 supplements can lower your risk of late AMD. If you already have late AMD in one eye, the supplements can lower your risk of getting late AMD in your other eye. 

At the end of the five-year study, the researchers found that vitamin and mineral supplements do help reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD in people who have intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in one eye only. In those groups the risk was reduced by 25 percent when study participants took a combination of vitamins, antioxidants, and zinc and copper. In that same high-risk group, the supplements reduced the risk of central vision loss by 19%.

The study did not show benefits from taking the supplements for study participants with early AMD or for those with cataracts.

The AREDS Study Participants

The AREDS study included 4,757 participants, ages 55-80 years, with cataract, AMD, or both. There were 3,640 participants who had early or late stage AMD. The cataract results are based on 4,629 of the participants with cataract in one or both eyes.

AREDS included participants with AMD ranging from none in either eye to advanced AMD in one eye but good vision (at least 20/30) in the other eye. The participants were enrolled at 11 clinics nationwide and their clinical progression was followed for 5 years. Fifty-six percent were female.

Difference Between AREDS Vitamins and AREDS 2

The AREDS 2 vitamins do not contain beta carotene. The study data showed that a high dose of beta carotene was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers.

You can purchase AREDS 2 vitamins or take all the supplements separately. The following is the AREDS 2 formulation:

  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 500 mg
  • Vitamin E 400 international units (IU)
  • Lutein 10 mg
  • Zeaxanthin 2 mg
  • Zinc (as zinc oxide) 80 mg 
  • Copper (as cupric oxide) 2 mg

Healthy Diet

The antioxidant vitamins in fruits and vegetables contribute to eye health. Kale, spinach, broccoli, parsley, peas, corn, red cabbage, blueberries, strawberries all have high levels of antioxidants. Foods containing high levels of zinc are also recommended for those with macular degeneration. These include high-protein foods, such as beef, pork and lamb. Non-meat sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, whole-grain cereals and whole-wheat bread.

Manage Your Other Conditions

If you have diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure, take your medication as directed and follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling the condition.

Smoking puts you at a higher risk for AMD, so if you smoke, then stopping will be another step toward eye health.

Consult Your Doctor

Talk with your eye doctor and your primary care physician before starting any supplement regime to find out if it is right for you. 

We look forward to seeing you. If you have questions or want to make an appointment, please give us a call.


Gregory Scimeca, M.D.
Ophthalmologist and Medical Director

The Eye Professionals – 5 locations