B Vitamins May Benefit Ocular Health

April 1, 2009

B vitamins may help prevent age-related macular degeneration in older women, according to The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study, the first rigorous study of its kind, published in the Feb. 23 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine (2009;169:335-341).

Key Points

Chicago-B vitamins may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in older women, according to The Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study, the first rigorous study of its kind, published in the Feb. 23 edition of Archives of Internal Medicine (2009;169:335-341).

"Other than avoiding cigarette smoking, this is the first suggestion from a randomized trial of a possible way to reduce early stage AMD," said William Christen, ScD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, who led the research. Dr. Christen said the findings should apply to men as well.

The study included more than 5,000 women aged 40 years and older who were at risk for development of cardiovascular disease. The participants who were randomized to a combination of B vitamins, i.e., B-6, folic acid and B-12, reduced their risk of AMD by more than one-third after 7 years compared with those who took placebo. Among the women randomized to the B vitamins, 55 cases of AMD developed compared with 82 cases in the placebo group. In the B vitamin group, 26 cases caused substantial vision loss, compared with 44 such cases among those randomized to placebo. However, Dr. Christen pointed out that small number of cases of late-stage AMD did not allow definitive claims about the potential benefit of the B vitamins.