B-vitamin supplementation reduces risk of macular degeneration

Back in April 2008 one of my blogs focused on the nutrients which might help prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration (the most common cause of visual loss in the elderly). The blog highlights the potential of omega-3 fats and zinc to be or particular value here. However, more recently, evidence has emerged which suggests that certain B vitamins may be added to the list of potential preventers of macular degeneration.

The study in question involved more than 5500 women aged 40 or more who were treated with folic acid (2.5 mg per day), vitamin B6 (50 mg per day) and vitamin B12 (1 mg per day) or placebo for an average of more than 7 years [1].

At the end of the study women taking the supplements were at a 34 per cent reduced risk of having developed macular degeneration. Risk reduction of ‘visually significant’ macular degeneration (MD severe enough to affect vision) was 41 per cent. Both results were statistically significant. The benefits of supplementation appeared to emerge about 2 years after treatment was commenced.

One way these specific nutrients may help to prevent macular degeneration is through their ability to reduce levels of homocysteine ” a molecule that high levels of which are associated with an increased risk of this eye condition.


Christen WG, et al. Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular StudyArch Intern Med, 2009;169(4): 335-41.

3 Responses to B-vitamin supplementation reduces risk of macular degeneration

  1. Angela Walker 26 May 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    There is such a growing body of evidence of that high levels of homocysteine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers Disease and here eye health, yet still our GP’s dont routinely test for it. What do you think it will take for this to change Dr Briffa?


  2. Trinkwasser 28 May 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    To Angela: cheaper tests! Same for CRP.

    This is more useful information, my mother (93) had wet AMD in one eye and was left to go blind as the other eye “only” had dry AMD and the Rule was that Lucentis was only to be used when both eyes were affected with the same type, and then only in one eye (this rule was later changed, but too late for her). I wish I could have persuaded her to go private and get Avastin but she was unwilling to not believe the consultant 🙁

    So we have an interest in keeping her one remaining eye in working order!

    I found this


    and have been ensuring she gets these nutrients from her food (they are all useful antiinflammatories for my diabetes too)

    She has malabsorbtion syndrome from Crohn’s and a couple of operations as well as just from ageing and gets B12 injections and B6 supplementation anyway, maybe I should persuade her to add the Folic Acid. I feed us both plenty of fish, Real Meat and multicoloured veggies and so far her remaining eye is degenerating a lot slower than it was.

  3. Jan 2 June 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    My great grandmother suffered from macular degeneration and i felt she did not get the attention she needed. She had lost most her sight when she passed away. Thanks to the internet and websites like this one and: http://www.youreyeguide.co.uk/macular/index.html we can prepare ourelves and be more aware of all sorts of vision problems, before its too late. Thank you Dr Briffa.

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