Vitamin B can help prevent vision loss

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CHICAGO: Taking vitamin B can prevent a common type of vision loss in older women, according to the first rigorous study of its kind. It’s a slight redemption for vitamin supplements, which have suffered recent blows from research finding them powerless at preventing disease.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 65 and older, with nearly two million Americans in the advanced stage of the condition. It causes a layer of the eye to deteriorate, blurring the centre of the field of vision and making it difficult to recognise faces, read and drive. There’s no cure, but treatment, including laser therapy in some cases, can slow it down.

“Other than avoiding smoking cigarettes, this is the first suggestion from a randomised trial of a possible way to reduce early stage AMD,” said William Christen of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who led the research. He said the findings should apply to men as well.

The women in the study who took a combination of B vitamins – B-6, folic acid and B-12 – reduced their risk of AMD by more than one-third after seven years compared to women taking dummy pills. It’s too soon to recommend B vitamins to people who want to prevent age-related vision loss, Christen said. However, he and others recommended food sources of B vitamins and folic acid such as meat, poultry, fortified cereals, beans, nuts, leafy vegetables, spinach and peas. ap

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