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Saffron therapy for the ongoing treatment of age-related macular degeneration.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the long-term efficacy and safety of oral saffron, a natural antioxidant, in treating mild/moderate age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Open-label, extension trial of 93 adults (>50 years) with mild/moderate AMD and vision >20/70 Snellen equivalent in at least 1 eye. Exclusion criteria included confounding visual lesions or significant gastrointestinal disease impairing absorption.Participants were given oral saffron supplementation (20 mg/day) for 12 months. Those already consuming Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS) supplements or equivalent maintained these.Primary outcomes included changes in multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) response density and latency, and changes in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA). Secondary outcomes included safety outcomes, changes in mfERG and BCVA among participants on AREDS supplements and changes in microperimetry.

RESULTS: At 12 months, mean mfERG response density was significantly higher in rings 1, 2 and overall (p<0.001 for all) but not in rings 3-6, and there was no difference in response between those taking AREDS supplements and those not (p>0.05). Mean mfERG latency was not significantly different in any of rings 1-6 or overall (p>0.05 for all), again with no difference between those taking AREDS supplements or not (p>0.05). Mean BCVA was 1.6 letters worse (p<0.05) with no difference between those on AREDS supplements or not, and this may have been related to cataract progression. No saffron-related serious adverse events were detected.

CONCLUSION: Saffron supplementation modestly improved mfERG responses in participants with AMD, including those using AREDS supplements. Given the chronic nature of AMD, longer-term supplementation may produce greater benefits.

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