It was an afternoon in late October 2001. A fax from the American Academy of Ophthalmology had just printed in my office, and at the top in large capital letters, it said:
====== ¬† URGENT! ¬† ======Fax machines in doctors' offices are targets for every company trying to market surgical instruments, medications, automobile tires, lunch menus, you name it. And normally, I never look at what has come in. But something about this fax caught my eye. Looking more carefully, I saw that it came from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and it was announcing a ground-breaking study just completed at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. The study acronym was AREDS, and what it stood for was Age-Related Eye Disease Study. For the first time ever, this study found, after testing thousands of patients over several years, it had been proven for the first time that high doses of particular vitamins and minerals slowed the progression of macular degeneration. The amounts of these ingredients were far, far higher than anything used before in eye vitamins, but then again, nothing at lower doses had been shown to work before AREDS. Patients were split into several groups:
- 80 mg of Zinc oxide alone with 2 mg Cupric oxide added to prevent Zinc-induced anemia
- Antioxidants alone, including 25,000 IU of beta-carotene, 500 mg of Vitamin C and 400 IU of Vitamin E
- Zinc plus Antioxidants
- Large population studies had shown that beta-carotene, one of the five ingredients in AREDS, increased the risk of lung cancer in heavy smokers. So we substituted Lutein, a different carotenoid without that risk profile, and created VisiVite Smokers Formula. Now widely imitated, it was the very first macular degeneration supplement that was based on AREDS for smokers.
- Vitamin Science was the first company to manufacture mixed nutritional supplements that were based on AREDS and contained high doses of Zeaxanthin, an even more powerful carotenoid.
- Vitamin Science was the first company to manufacturer an AREDS-based supplement without Vitamin E, for patients on Coumadin (warfarin).