A recent Harvard Medical School study shows that women who took vitamin B6 and B12, as well as folic acid, had a reduced risk of age related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in older Americans. Inexpensive and easy to take, this all-natural solution may offer hope to millions affected by AMD and improve vision.
Age related macular degeneration is a disease linked to getting older that slowly, almost imperceptibly destroys sharp central vision. This is the vision you need to see things clearly, as well as do some basic daily tasks like reading, watching TV, driving.
There are two forms of AMD, wet and dry and the type you have will determine the treatment you’ll use to preserve your sight and keep your eyes as healthy as possible.
For the research, the 5,000 subjects, all women over 40 years old and without signs of age related macular degeneration, were randomly assigned to take a combination of 2.5 milligrams of folic acid, 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 and one milligram of B12 (higher levels than the current daily recommended doses), or a placebo every day.
According to study author William Christen, folic acid, B6 and B12 are known to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked, if blood levels are high enough, to a greater risk of age related macular degeneration.
The subjects the team used in this work were already participating in a study that was investigating using B vitamins for cardiovascular disease, and all the subjects had heart disease or at least three risk factors for it at the start of the study.
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Determinations on their eye health were based on examinations of medical records or responses to questionnaires, there were no rigorous eye examinations or retinal photos taken as part of the research.
During the 7 years of follow up, the subjects answered yearly questionnaires to be sure they were taking the vitamins and hadn’t developed any new disease.
During the study, 137 new cases of AMD were diagnosed, 70 of these caused significant vision loss.
But the subjects taking the B vitamins and folic acid had a 34% lower risk of any AMD, and a 41% lower risk of AMD with vision loss as compared with the placebo-taking group.
The researchers believe the benefits of the vitamin therapy didn’t appear until about two years after starting treatment – so this is no quick fix to be sure.
And even though the subjects in the study were women, the findings of the benefits of vitamin B likely apply to all older Americans.
“The trial findings … are the strongest evidence to date in support of a possible beneficial effect of folic acid and B vitamin supplements in AMD prevention,” write the study authors, including William Christen an associate professor of medicine.
The work appears in the February 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine though more research will be needed on other groups of subjects to help find the right level of vitamins needed to benefit the eyes.
Current estimates suggest that 1.75 million people have the advanced form of AMD, and another 7.3 million are in the early stages of disease.
Right now, treatment for AMD is limited to the later stages of the disease, but for the rest of us, there aren’t any preventative measures – except to stop smoking.
As you get older, or if you have concerns about AMD, you might want to talk with your own healthcare team about including B vitamins into your supplementing plans.
As water-soluble vitamins, you need to replenish your resources each day. There are also ample natural sources of B vitamins that you might want to include in your diet.
Good dietary sources of the B vitamins, especially B12, are:
– Animal products (meat, poultry)
– Yeast extracts (brewers’ yeast, Marmite).
Other sources include:
– Asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, potatoes
– Dried apricots, dates and figs
– Milk, eggs, cheese, yoghurt
– Nuts and pulses
– Brown rice, wheat germ, wholegrain cereals
By including these vitamin b rich foods in your diet you can naturally help your body fight off AMD and improve vision.