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Results from a two-year study have revealed that a dietary supplement improves the vision of people diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Participants in the study all had the early stages, estimated to affect on 7.2 per cent of Irish adults aged 50 years and over.

The European Research Council-funded programme involved over 100 people who had an AMD diagnosis and whose symptoms improved by taking a dietary supplement of carotenoids.

AMD patients would generally have been expected to experience a continued deterioration in their vision over the two years of the clinical trial.

However, those receiving carotenoids showed a significant improvement across 24 out of 32 tests of vision.

At the conclusion of the 24-month study, 40 per cent of trial participants had what was deemed to be a clinically meaningful improvement in their vision.

During the trial, participants received supplementary meso-zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein, the three carotenoids that make up macular pigment. Improvements in vision were particularly marked among those receiving all three carotenoids compared to those receiving only zeaxanthin and lutein.

The study, called CREST (Central Retinal Enrichment Supplementation Trial) AMD, is the first of its kind in the world and is published in ‘Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science’ (IOVS).

The research was conducted by a team from the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), along with the University of Georgia, USA, and University College London Institute of Ophthalmology.

Prof John Nolan , Howard Chair of Human Nutrition at WIT, spoke of his excitement at the discovery: “AMD and the impaired vision that comes with are a huge burden for patients and their families. The disease also brings a considerable economic burden, especially in its later stages.

“So, there’s a huge prize in finding an early intervention that can avert the need for expensive therapies and supports”.