Page last updated at 06:01 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 07:01 UK

Supplement 'slows down blindness'

Photo of a woman having an eye test
An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD

High doses of antioxidants found in fruit and veg could slow sight loss in elderly people, according to research.

A five-year study of nutritional supplements for patients with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) found they helped sharpen vision.

More than 400 people with an average age of 77 took part in the study, co-ordinated by Prof Usha Chakravarthy of Queen's University Belfast.

Progression of AMD was slowed in patients taking high antioxidant doses.

Clinical trials investigated whether carotenoids - rich antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables - could prevent progression to the more serious late AMD.

Prof Chakravarthy said: "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.

"Further research is needed to confirm these findings and to identify the numbers needed to treat to prevent one case from progressing from early to late AMD."

Prof Chakravarthy worked with Dr Stephen Beatty, head of vision research at the Waterford Institute of Technology, on the study which developed the supplement given to the trial patients.

They are presenting their findings in Belfast on Friday.

An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD, which destroys central vision.

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