Taking B Vitamins May Prevent Vision Loss
Vitamin supplements have seen a decrease in their popularity because of the growing amount of research that seems to indicate that they serve no purpose in preventing disease. But do not write off vitamin supplements just yet. New research seems to indicate that taking B vitamins may prevent age related vision loss, especially in women.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people of the age of 65 and above. In America alone, more that 2 million people have an advanced form of the condition. AMD happens when that part of the eye that is responsible for seeing things directly in front of a person, begins to deteriorate. As the condition progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to see objects directly in front of you and makes activities like recognizing familiar faces, reading and driving extremely difficult. There is, at present no cure for this condition, although certain types of treatment such as laser therapy do seem to be effective in slowing the progress of the vision loss.
Until now, prevention has been related only to encouraging smokers to give up the habit as smoking is known to increase the risks of AMD significantly. Recent studies also indicate that excessive consumption of red meat can increase the chances of getting AMD.
The benefits of B vitamins in preventing the onset of AMD have emerged from a study done by the laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research at Boston's Tufts University.
The study covered over 5000 women of the age of 40 and above. The participants were divided into two groups, one of which was given daily dosages of vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid and the other group who were given placebos.
During the over 7 years' course of the study, 137 women developed symptoms of AMD and of these 70 had significant vision loss. Of these 137 women, 55 were those who were taking the B Vitamins and 82 were those on the placebos. Of those who had significant vision loss, only 26 were from the group taking the B vitamins and the balance 44 were from the placebo group. Even during the early stages of the study, it became clear that B Vitamins had an effect in impeding the development of AMD. In the second year of the study, when the participants were examined those who were taking the B Vitamins were already showing a lower tendency to develop AMD than those who were not taking the vitamins.
When the results of the study are translated into statistical terms, the findings are that women taking B Vitamins are 34% less likely to develop AMD and have a 41% lower risk of significant vision loss because of AMD.
While the findings of this study have shown a clear relation to the intake of B Vitamins and a lower risk of AMD, much more research is needed to ascertain why the B Vitamins have this effect. Many theories are already in circulation and they include the effect of the B Vitamins in improving blood circulation, their strong antioxidant effect and their role in lowering some chemical and hormone levels in the body. Only further research will be able to show how and why B Vitamins provide the benefits they do in preventing the onset of AMD.
Also, there seems to be no reason why doses of B Vitamins should not have the same effect on men in regard to the onset of AMD. This is another area for research.
It must be understood clearly that while the intake of properly regulated doses of B Vitamins appear to prevent the onset of AMD, it is not a guaranteed prophylactic measure. B vitamins also have other benefits to the system and taking them will produce many benefits and one among them is the reduced risk of AMD. Among other things, B Vitamins improve cardiovascular health, increase energy levels, boost metabolic function, boost skin and muscle tone, fight depression and boost the immune system.
This should not be taken as a license to continue with other bad habits that cause the onset of AMD. Taking B Vitamins does not mean that you can continue smoking or eating excess quantities of red meat. That is not how vitamins work. When additional AMD risk factors like smoking and eating red meat are removed, then B Vitamins will be beneficial in reducing the likelihood of (a) getting AMD and (b) suffering from vision loss due to the condition. Remember, once a person gets AMD, there is no cure for it, only steps to control it to some extent.
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