A recent study makes a powerful case for encouraging mom and dad to take their supplements. High doses of certain antioxidants—vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene—plus zinc were found to drastically reduce the risk of advanced macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness among older people, according to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology (2001, vol. 119, no. 10). The clinical trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), was sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI) under the aegis of the National Institutes of Health. According to the NEI, this is the first effective treatment found to slow the progression of AMD.

Researchers found that patients at high risk of developing AMD lowered that risk by 25 percent by taking the antioxidants and zinc, and decreased the risk of vision loss by 19 percent. The nutrients, however, showed no benefit for those at low risk who didn't yet show symptoms of AMD.

Though it has long been known that diets rich in these nutrients reduce the risk of developing AMD, the amounts proven effective are greater than can be easily consumed in food, and are more readily obtained from supplements. The nutrients used in this study were 500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 mg beta-carotene, 80 mg zinc as zinc oxide and 2 mg copper oxide (added to compensate for copper deficiency, a possible side effect of supplementing with high levels of zinc), taken daily.