New findings on vitamin E and cataracts in women

Published on May 1, 2008 at 6:40 PM · No Comments

A new analysis of the Women's Health Study (WHS) found that women who took Vitamin E supplements had rates of cataract development comparable to women who did not take such supplements.

Dr. William G. Christen and colleagues used data from the landmark WHS, in which 39,876 professional women aged 45 or older took 600 IU of vitamin E (every other day) and 100 mg of aspirin (every day) in this 10-year, randomized, controlled study on cardiovascular disease and cancer prevention. Each woman's cataract history was also recorded, along with health and lifestyle factors such as history of cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and use of multivitamins.

Dr. Christen said his study's findings are consistent with four previous randomized trials: "Together, these results indicate that supplementation with vitamin E, alone or in combination with other antioxidant nutrients, for durations as long as 6.5 years has little impact on cataract occurrence in well-nourished patients." The results held for women who might have been expected to benefit most from antioxidant supplements: smokers and those with hypertension and/or diabetes. But since age-related cataract develops over many years as a result of cumulative damage to the eye's lens, longer timeframes might be necessary to see a benefit from antioxidant supplements, Dr. Christen said.

Sharp Vision Linked to Longer Life in Initial Asian Population Study

In the first study of its type in an Asian population, researchers found that the relationship of age and cause of death to visual acuity-the ability to see objects clearly and in detail-was consistent with results of similar studies in Western countries. Dr. Tien Yin Wong led the study of 1,232 Chinese people who lived in Singapore, a major urban center. About 10 percent of the subjects died during the 1998 to 2004 study period.

Analysis of the subjects' health and, when appropriate, death records showed that the death rate was significantly increased-three times higher-for those whose vision measured 20/40 or worse, after the data were adjusted for age, gender, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, heart attack, and stroke. Cause of death differed among VA categories; for example, cancer was the leading cause in people with normal vision. The researchers speculated that compromised vision could have contributed to fatal falls and accidents and reduced other quality of life and health factors that impact mortality.

Related studies have hypothesized that lens changes that occur in cataract might reflect cellular processes associated with aging and the acceleration of the dying process, but Dr. Wong said their study did not find specific links between cataract, glaucoma, or a number of other eye disorders and mortality.

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