Older women taking B vitamins may be preventing the development of age-related macular degeneration, a common form of vision loss, according to the first rigorous study of its kind from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people 65 and older. More than one-third of Canadians between 55 and 74 develop AMD, according to AMDCanada.com.
This condition causes the macula layer of the eye to deteriorate, blurring the centre of the field of vision and making it difficult to recognize faces, read and drive.
There's no cure and prevention has eluded health researchers and doctors.
In this new study, more than 5,000 women aged 40 and older took a combination of the B vitamins B-6, folic acid and B-12, or a placebo, to determine the effect of supplementation on the development of age-related macular degeneration.
After seven years, the women who supplemented with these B vitamins reduced their risk of macular degeneration by more than one-third when compared to their peers who did not supplement.
Men should see similar effects on eye health from B vitamin supplementation, say this study's author.
Nutrition researchers say it's too soon to recommend B vitamins to people who want to prevent age-related vision loss.
People who have risk factors for this eye disease (such as a history of smoking) should talk to their physician or dietitian about supplements such as vitamins C and E and zinc, or the phytochemical lutein. Research has that these nutrients can slow this age-related eye disease.
This study was published in the February 23, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.