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.