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Brooke Denne '00

What is the Evidence that Antioxidants Prevent or Impede the Progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration and Age-related Cataracts?


Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and age-related cataracts are the leading causes of blindness in the aging population, and research suggests both diseases are initiated by oxidative damage. If this hypothesis is correct, increasing antioxidants may decrease the risk of developing these two eye diseases. The objective of this paper is to analyze and integrate the published material that examines the relationship between antioxidants and ARMD/cataracts. High intakes of a-tocopherol (~10-35 mg TE/day) appear to decrease risk of ARMD by 30-60%. Ascorbic acid serum levels, lens concentration, and supplement use for ³10 years are all associated with a decreased risk of cataract. In addition, high intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are related to a decreased risk of cataracts. Intakes of 13 mg/day of lutein/zeaxanthin were associated with a 22% decreased risk of extraction, while 2 mg/day was associated with a 50% decreased risk of cataract incidence. In conclusion, increased intakes of a-tocopherol may prevent or impede the progression of age-related macular degeneration, while ascorbic acid and lutein/zeaxanthin may minimize cataract development. Although further research is necessary before exact dosage recommendations can be made, the potential benefits of consuming a-tocopherol supplements, optimal levels of ascorbic acid from diet, and lutein/zeaxanthin greatly outweighs the associated risks.

Faculty Mentor: Amy Olson, PhD, RD