Magazine article Science News

Vitamins C and E May Prevent Cataracts

Magazine article Science News

Vitamins C and E May Prevent Cataracts

Article excerpt

Vitamins C and E May Prevent Cataracts

A Canadian epidemiologic study suggests vitamin C and vitamin E supplements help prevent cataracts in humans. The new findings, which seem to coroborate vitamin C-related results from a similar U.S. study, represent the first time researchers have shown a relationship between vitamin E intake and cataract prevention in humans, says study coauthor James McD. Robertson at the University of Western Ontario in London.

If confirmed, the work could lead to a "tremendous" public health benefit, says Allen Taylor of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Medford, Mass. "If you could delay cataract formation by just 10 years, you would eliminate the need for half of the cataract extractions," he says. Cataracts, which can lead to blindness, afflict 20 percent of people between the ages of 60 and 75 in the United States, prompting half a million surgical procedures each year, Robertson says.

Animal studies have suggested a biological basis for the epidemiologic findings. Last year, Robertson's colleague John R. Trevithick and his team showed that diabetic -- and therefore cataractprone -- rats given high dietary levels of vitamin E had less lens-protein leakage than did controls, indicating reduced cataract formation in the treated rats. And experiments with guinea pigs have demonstrated that vitamin C boosts the amount of ascorbic acid in the eye, helping to stop cataract formation (SN: 6/28/86, p.410). Now that epidemiologic observations suggest these results may apply to humans, a clinical intervention trial appears warranted, Robertson says.

Robertson, Trevithick and Allan P. Donner compared the self-reported supplemental vitamin intake, general health, education and other demographic characteristics of 175 cataract patients over the age of 55 living in southwestern Ontario with those of 175 age- and sex-matched cataract-free adults. …

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