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Sight loss treated with antioxidants

The leading cause of age-related sight loss in the Western world could be tackled by taking a simple supplement, research suggests.

Scientists from Belfast's Queen's University Centre of Vision and Vascular Science have been looking at whether antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables may slow down sight loss in elderly people.

Initial findings suggested that giving nutritional supplements to patients with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) helped sharpen vision.

Working with experts from the Waterford Institute of Technology in the Irish Republic, the researchers went on to investigate whether carotenoids - rich antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables - could prevent progression to the more serious late AMD.

AMD is an incurable eye disease that affects the central part of the retina, called the macula, leading to a blurring of central vision.

The supplement contained the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, combined with vitamins C, E and zinc.

The author of the study, Professor Usha Chakravarthy, wrote: "These findings are important because this is the first randomised, controlled clinical trial to document a beneficial effect through improved function and maintained macular pigment."

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Centre for Vision and Vascular Science