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The Rotterdam Study Findings
The Rotterdam Study is an ongoing population-based, prospective cohort study of the factors influencing cardiovascular, neurologic and ophthalmologic diseases. Unlike AREDS, which focused on antioxidant supplementation for people who already had signs of AMD, the current investigation examined whether regular dietary intake of antioxidants could impact the risk of developing AMD in an older Dutch population free of clinical signs of the disease at baseline.
The results, reported in the December 28, 2005 issue of JAMA, strongly suggest that regular intake of antioxidants can markedly lower the risk of developing AMD, in this case by approximately one third (1).
Dietary intake was assessed at baseline for 4,170 people who were at risk of AMD and who completed the follow-up. This at risk population was 55 or older and had no AMD in either eye. Participants had no drusen or pigment irregularities, hard drusen only, or soft drusen without pigment changes.
Incident AMD until final follow-up in 2004 was determined by grading fundus color transparencies. Potential for bias was minimized by grading the photographs in a blinded manner. The main outcome measure was incident AMD, defined as soft distinct drusen with pigment changes, indistinct or reticular drusen, geographic atrophy, or choroidal neo-vascularization.
After a mean follow-up of 8 years (0.3-13.9 years), AMD occurred in 560 participants. After adjusting for known confounders such as atherosclerosis and smoking, dietary intake of vitamin E and zinc were found to be inversely associated with incident AMD. A dose-response relationship between both vitamin E and zinc intake and a reduced risk of AMD was noted.
The researchers also analyzed the combined intake of all 4 antioxidants studied in the AREDS trial: vitamins E and C, zinc and beta-carotene. An intake above the median for all 4 nutrients reduced AMD risk by 35%.
While no relationship between lutein consumption and risk of AMD risk was seen, the difference in intake levels among the lowest and highest quartiles of dietary intake (1.4 vs. 3.6 mg) was small.
These findings may have important public health implications, for they strongly suggest that long-term consumption of antioxidants could prevent or delay the development of early AMD. Recent data, in fact, suggests that oxidative modification of retinal proteins play a critical role in the formation of drusen, implying that antioxidants may have their strongest effect at the initiation of AMD (2).
Risk reduction was observed for dietary intake above the RDA for all 4 antioxidant nutrients compared to each one alone. This indicates that the combination acted synergistically in exerting a protective effect, and underscores the need to maintain a regular, above-RDA intake of all of 4 nutrients over time.
The majority of people in this Dutch cohort appeared to consume a healthy diet. Additionally, the independent relationship between antioxidant supplements and AMD could not be examined in this study since the number of antioxidant supplement users was relatively small, and the necessary data on dose and duration of use was lacking. However supplementation may be helpful in US populations where subgroups fail to consistently consume adequate amounts of antioxidant nutrients.
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