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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 26, 2007

UI Study Seeks People Ages 50 To 85 With Macular Degeneration

The University of Iowa has been chosen to be a clinical center for the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS 2). The study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, will test whether two nutritional supplements (lutein and zeaxinthin) and two omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA and EPA) found in fish oil can prevent or slow vision loss in age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The UI Department of Ophthalmology at Iowa seeks eligible participants who are between ages 50 and 85 and have large drusen in both eyes or large drusen in one eye and advanced AMD in the other eye. Drusen are yellow spots in the back of the eye that can be seen by an eye doctor. Participants may not have other eye diseases or another major disease that would make participation in a long-term study difficult.

Participation involves an initial screening visit at UI Hospitals and Clinics and a one-month trial of taking placebo (inactive) pills. People found qualified to continue in the study will be asked to return for a second visit and randomly assigned to take a pill regimen for five years.

Participants will have a three out of four chance of receiving a pill combination with the nutritional/nutrient supplements and a one in four chance of receiving placebo pills only. Participants may also take the vitamins and zinc that were found by the first AREDS study to be helpful in treating AMD.

After the first two study visits, participants must have a yearly eye examination at UI Hospitals and Clinics for five years. Each visit will last three to four hours.

Approximately 45 people will participate at the UI site, with nearly 4,000 individuals expected to participate nationwide. The principal investigator for the UI site is James Folk, M.D., professor of ophthalmology in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

The first AREDS study tested a different combination of vitamin and mineral supplements, Folk said.

"The original AREDS study found that vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and minerals zinc and copper, when taken by people at risk of developing advanced AMD, reduced the risk of disease progression by 25 percent and the risk of moderate vision loss by 19 percent," Folk said. "The AREDS2 study puts lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids to the test."

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids, the yellow and orange pigments found in fruits and vegetables such as corn, carrots and tomatoes, as well as leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach and collards. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are mostly found in fish but also in walnuts and flax seeds. Omega-3 oils have been found to lower the risk of heart disease.

"Early research suggests that people who eat food with lutein and zeaxanthin or omega-3 oils may be at lower risk for AMD. However, no study has yet proven the benefits. Thus, AREDS2 aims to determine if there are possible benefits of these supplements," Folk said.

For more information, contact Barb Taylor at 319-356-0453 or Information also is available online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

STUDY CONTACT: Barb Taylor, 319-356-0453 or

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660,