Are antioxidants or supplements protective for age-related macular degeneration?

Arch Ophthalmol. 1994 Feb;112(2):222-7. doi: 10.1001/archopht.1994.01090140098031.


Objectives: The relationships between fasting plasma levels of retinol, ascorbic acid, alpha-tochopherol, and beta-carotene and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were studied in a population enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), in which most of the data were collected 2 or more years before assessment of macular status.

Design: A total of 976 participants in the study were scheduled for a biennial examination from January 1988 through January 1, 1990, which included taking lens and macular photographs. A total of 827 (85%) of the participants had fundus photographs taken, and most plasma data were available for 82% of those subjects with fundus photographs. Age-related macular degeneration was defined as neovascular changes, geographic and nongeographic atrophy, large or confluent drusen, or hyperpigmentation. A total of 226 cases of AMD were available for analysis.

Results: Logistic regression analyses suggested that alpha-tocopherol was associated with a protective effect for AMD, adjusted for age, sex, and nuclear opacity. An antioxidant index, including ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, and beta-carotene, was also protective for AMD. Our conclusions must be tempered with the knowledge that the population under study was basically well nourished, and few individuals had any clinically deficient status. The study cannot exclude the possibility that quite low levels of micronutrients, lower than those observed in this study, might be risk factors for AMD.

Conclusions: The data suggest a protective effect for AMD of high plasma values of alpha-tocopherol. An antioxidant index, composed of plasma ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, and beta-carotene, was also protective. The use of vitamin supplements to prevent AMD is not supported by these data, which showed no protective effect of vitamin use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage*
  • Cataract / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Macular Degeneration / blood
  • Macular Degeneration / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / administration & dosage


  • Antioxidants
  • Nonprescription Drugs