SAN FRANCISCO Feb. 20, 2014 Long-term daily multivitamin supplement use may lower cataract risk in men, according to a study of nearly 15,000 male physicians published this month in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Past observational studies have indicated a relationship between nutritional supplement use and eye health. However, randomized trial data on the effects of long-term multivitamin supplement use and risk of eye diseases are limited and, in some cases, non-existent. To address this, researchers based at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School as part of the Physicians' Health Study II (PHS II) conducted a randomized, double-blind study from 1997 to 2011 of 14,641 U.S. male doctors age 50 and older. Half took a common daily multivitamin, as well as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene supplements. The other half took a placebo. The researchers followed the participants to identify how many participants in each group developed new cases of two common eye diseases: cataract, which is a clouding of the eye's lens, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the deterioration of the eye's macula that is responsible for the ability to see fine details clearly.
The researchers found that in the placebo group 945 cases of cataract developed, which were self-reported and confirmed by medical records, while only 872 cases of cataract developed in the multivitamin group, representing a 9 percent decrease in risk. This risk was even lower, at 13 percent, for nuclear cataract, which occurs at the center of the lens and is the most common variety of cataract associated with the aging process. Given that an estimated 10 million adults in the United States have impaired vision due to cataract, even a modest reduction in risk of cataract has potential to improve public health outcomes.
"If multivitamins really do reduce the risk of cataract, even by a modest 10 percent, this
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American Academy of Ophthalmology