Give and Take (Again)

Give and Take (Again)

If you mounted a study in which you put gasoline in thousands of cars but neglected to put water in the radiator and oil in the crankcase, you might conclude that cars will not run on gas.

This is sort of what Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers did when they mounted an impressively large and long intervention study that examined the effects of beta carotene supplementation on age-related maculopathy (ARM) – a disorder of the macular area of the eye. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a type of ARM.

The B&W team divided nearly 22,000 U.S. male doctors over the age of 40 into two groups. One group received 50 mg of beta-carotene every other day for 12 years. The other group received a placebo. At the end of the study, about the same number of subjects in each group had developed ARM.

The authors write in the current issue of Archives of Ophthalmology: “Long-term supplemental use of beta carotene neither decreases nor increases the risk of ARM.”

Unfortunately, this study overlooks one very important fact: Antioxidants work most effectively as a team. If you single them out, you’ll show (as this study does) that they’re less effective on their own. But if you put them together

In the e-Alert “Give & Take” (3/14/07), I told you about the Age-Related Eye Disease study in which researchers tracked nearly 3,600 participants between the ages of 55 and 80 to examine the effects that a VARIETY of antioxidant supplements have on AMD.

The results: High levels of zinc and antioxidants significantly reduced the risk of AMD. The AREDS team recommended that anyone at high risk of developing AMD should consider taking daily supplements in the amounts used in the study:

  • Zinc (as zinc oxide) – 80 mg
  • Vitamin C – 500 mg
  • Vitamin E – 400 IU
  • Beta-carotene – 15 mg

But not everyone should be taking zinc supplements at the 80mg level daily. You can find out why in the “Give & Take” e-Alert at this link:

“Beta Carotene Supplementation and Age-Related Maculopathy in a Randomized Trial of U.S. Physicians” Archives of Ophthalmology, Vol. 125, No. 3, March 2007,