Study Shows That Vitamin E Does Not Prevent Macular Degeneration

by Dan Roberts
August, 2002
Until recently, some doctors have thought that megadoses of Vitamin E might help prevent macular degeneration. This opinion was bolstered by the National Eye Institute study and the resulting AREDS report on the benefits of high doses of antioxidants and zinc, which included Vitamin E. New research has concluded, however, that daily intake of vitamin E does not prevent the development or progression of early or later stages of age related macular degeneration.
This study was done at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, University of Melbourne, and the report was published in the the British Medical Journal (BMJ 2002;325:11, 6 July ) under the title “Vitamin E supplementation and macular degeneration: randomised controlled trial (Hugh R Taylor, et al).
For the study, 1,103 healthy subjects, ages 55-80, were followed for four years, with 73% completing on full protocol. Half received daily dosages of 500 IU of Vitamin E, and the other half received a placebo. Results were measured by observing retinal photographs and defining progression, changes in component features, visual acuity, and visual function.
The results showed that the incidence of early ARMD was 8.6% in those receiving vitamin E versus 8.1% in those on placebo. For late disease, the incidence was 0.8% versus 0.6%. In other words, there was no significant difference between the two groups.
This is the first research to analyze the effects of Vitamin E alone on the development of ARMD. Certain variables could explain the disappointing results (length of time for observation, past eating habits of the subjects, recent intake of Vitamin E by the subjects, size of the sample group, etc.), so additional research will be needed to support the conclusions. For further discussion of this aspect of the research, see the editorial, “Prevention of Age Related Macular Degeneration“.