Those seeking to protect their eyes from macular degeneration should not rely on antioxidant supplements, especially vitamins E and C, according to a paper in the August issue of Ophthalmology, reported by HMS researchers. For the study, a research team led by William Christen, an HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, followed more than 14,000 male physicians age 50 and over for eight years, during which the randomly assigned participants took supplements of vitamin E or a placebo every other day, coupled with a daily dose of either vitamin C or a placebo, to determine whether the antioxidants affected the rate of retinal erosion. At the study’s end, the team found that, when the development of macular degeneration among placebo-taking participants was compared with that for those taking supplements, neither vitamin conferred protection against the disease.
Other research has indicated that antioxidants offer protection against macular degeneration. Yet, at eight years, this study has taken the most concerted look at long-term use of vitamin E and its effects, and is the first to consider the effects of vitamin C in preventing this disease. Macular degeneration currently affects an estimated 7.2 million people in the United States.