The data, including patient records, from the largest prospective study of macular degeneration is now “open source.” The Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was completed in 2001. It followed over 4000 patients for at least five years looking at factors that influence the development of macular degeneration and cataract. This study proved conclusively that certain vitamin supplements, in select patients, could reduce the effects of macular degeneration. In November, this database (dbGaP) was has become available to the “public,” or more specifically, the research world.
Scientists will have all data available to them from the original cohort of patients including patient records, retinal photographs and DNA. It is hoped that by opening up the database, additional analyses will find more relationships between genetic and environmental factors that influence both cataract and macular degeneration.
What does this mean? The database became unrestricted in November or last year. Since then, there seems to be weekly “studies” finding associations between certain dietary factors and the development of macular degeneration. I believe we are going to be overwhelmed by the number of “studies” resulting from the open source of data. While I read these articles with interest, I have to remember that these are not concrete findings, but merely associations that may or may not be true. For now, read the articles with interest. Before we make firm recommendations, or changes in our diets, additional prospective/randomized studies need to be performed that test these associations.
Eat your carrots!
Randall V. Wong, M.D.