Vitamins C & E and the Prevention of Cataracts

(February 20, 2012) More than 20 million Americans over the age of 40 have age-related cataracts, with as many as 50 percent of them having impaired vision as a result.

 

Recently, a large, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted to examine the potential preventive benefits vitamins C and E had on cataracts.  The findings were reported in an issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, in an article titled: Age-Related Cataract in a Randomized Trial of Vitamins E and C in Men, stating that long-term use of vitamins C and E had no visible effect whatsoever on the incidence of cataracts in men 50 years and older.

 

The analysis was based on the Physicians’ Health Study II, which looked at effects of vitamin E and C, as well as multivitamin, on the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease in some 14,641 doctors. As a secondary study, the researchers studied cataract incidence among the doctors, all ages 50 or greater.

 

William Christen, ScD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that the cataract data “represent the longest treatment duration for vitamin E in men and the first trial data for vitamin C alone.”  Half of the participants were randomly assigned to get vitamin E (400 IU of synthetic alpha-tocopherol) or placebo every other day. Within each arm, the doctors were randomly assigned to get either daily vitamin C (500 mg. of synthetic ascorbic acid) or placebo.  During an average follow-up of eight years, the researchers reported, 1,174 cataracts and 801 cataract extractions were confirmed. The findings also showed that study participants were generally well-nourished, so these findings may not apply to less well-nourished groups.

 

The study concluded that long-term alternate-day use of 400 IU of vitamin E and daily use of 500 mg. of vitamin C had no notable beneficial or harmful effect on the risk of cataract, as confirmed by William Christen.

 

The researchers noted that cataracts develop slowly and prevention “may require even longer periods of treatment and perhaps treatment at earlier ages.”

 

Although many people truly believe that daily vitamin supplements are the cure and/or prevention of many health conditions, as well as keeping us young on the inside and outside, this may not necessarily be true.  Getting vitamins and nutrients from the foods we eat, as well as a good exercise regimen, will probably do more good than any vitamins can.  Sometimes it makes us feel better to swallow a few vitamins, when really the only benefit these vitamins provide is to make the vitamin manufacturers richer!

 

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