AREDS versus AREDS 2

AREDS 2 was widely publicized, but was considered a scientific “failure.” Find out why.


The original AREDS research published in 2001 found that 5 ingredients slowed the progress of macular degeneration. The ingredients were:

Beta-carotene: 15,000 IU
Vitamin C: 500 mg
Vitamin E: 400 IU
Zinc oxide 80 mg
Cupric oxide: 2 mg

AREDS 2 Goals

The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, were suspected of working better than beta-carotene, which is a precursor form of Vitamin A. Additionally, two large population studies showed that beta-carotene raised the risk of lung cancer in smokers. There was also concern that the 80 mg daily dose of zinc oxide was too high. Finally, other studies had shown that omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil might benefit macular degeneration. AREDS 2 sought to discover if there was a better formula than the original AREDS

AREDS 2 Findings

  1. Lutein and zeaxanthin were, in fact, more effective than beta-carotene. Plus, beta-carotene was found to interfere with the absorption and activity of lutein and zeaxanthin. Finally, beta-carotene was again found to raise the risk of lung cancer, even in non-smokers. For all of these reasons, beta-carotene was removed from the AREDS 2 formula.
  2. Zinc oxide 25 mg was not found to lessen the benefit to the AREDS 2 formula in comparison with 80 mg daily. Although AREDS 2 concluded that zinc oxide 80 mg daily remain the “official formula,” most doctors now recommend lower zinc for their own patients to lessen the side effects of zinc.
  3. While some studies showed omega 3s benefit for macular degeneration, AREDS 2 did not come to the same conclusion. This may have been due to the type of EPA-DHA Ropufa mixture used in the study, the failure to use more potent triglyeride form omega 3s, or the insufficient dosage of omega 3s used.
  4. AREDS 2 failed to improve upon AREDS by at least 25%. Because the study hypothesis presumed this would happen, AREDS 2 failed to meet the improvement threshold. Scientifically, AREDS 2 failed, but in reality, most doctors use its conclusions to guide therapy for their patients.

For more information, visit AREDS vs AREDS 2.

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