Vitamin B, folic acid may decrease vision loss

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — A new study led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School suggests taking a combination of vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid may decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women. Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans.

The study, which appeared in the Feb. 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication of the JAMA/Archives journals, examined 5,205 women age 40 and older who did not have AMD at the beginning of the study.

The women were then randomly assigned to take a placebo or a combination of 2.5 mg of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6 and 1 mg of vitamin B12.

After two years, the benefits the supplement were seen and persisted throughout the trial, the researchers said.

During the 7.3 years of treatment and follow-up, 55 women developed AMD in the active treatment group while 82 women developed AMD in the placebo group. Researchers said women taking the supplements had a 34% lower risk of any AMD and a 41% lower risk of visually significant AMD.

"The trial findings reported herein are the strongest evidence to date in support of a possible beneficial effect of folic acid and B vitamin supplements in AMD prevention," the authors said. "From a public health perspective, this is particularly important because persons with early AMD are at increased risk of developing advanced AMD, the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss in older Americans."

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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