Six-year supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related maculopathy

Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 1998 Apr;76(2):224-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0420.1998.760220.x.


Purpose: Animal research and observational studies in man suggest a protective effect of antioxidant vitamins in the development of age-related maculopathy (ARM).

Methods: The ATBC study, a population-based, controlled clinical trial of alpha-tocopherol and beta carotene to prevent lung cancer, took place in Finland between 1984 and 1993. Over 29,000 smoking males aged 50 to 69 years were randomly assigned to alpha-tocopherol (AT; 50 mg/day), beta-carotene (BC; 20 mg/day), both of these, or placebo. We performed an end-of-trial ophthalmological examination on a random sample of 941 participants aged 65 years or more from two of the fourteen study areas, to discover if the five to eight-year intervention with alpha-tocopherol and/or beta-carotene had been associated with a difference in ARM prevalence. Age-related maculopathy was assessed using colour photographs of the macula.

Results: Altogether, 269 cases of ARM were found; there were more cases in the AT group (32%; 75/237), BC group (29%; 68/234), and combined antioxidant group (28%; 73/257) than in the placebo group (25%; 53/213). However, neither substance was significantly associated with the risk of ARM in a logistic regression analysis controlling for possible risk factors.

Conclusions: No beneficial effect of long-term supplementation with alpha-tocopherol or beta-carotene on the occurrence of ARM was detected among smoking males.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Macula Lutea*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retinal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Retinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use*
  • beta Carotene / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin E