Vitamins E and C and the risk of age-related cataract

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical, in Boston, studied the long-term effects.

First, the details.

  • 11,545 apparently healthy male physicians 50 years or older without a diagnosis of cataract were randomly assigned to a treatment group.
  • Vitamin E (400 IU of synthetic alpha-tocopherol) or placebo every other day.
  • Within each of these treatment groups, the doctors were again randomly assigned to get either daily vitamin C (500 mg of synthetic ascorbic acid) or placebo.
  • The incidence of cataract was recorded of 8 years.

And, the results.

  • 1174 incident cataracts were confirmed.
  • There were 579 cataracts in the vitamin E–treated group and 595 cases in the vitamin E placebo group.
  • For vitamin C, there were 593 cataracts in the treated group and 581 in the placebo group.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “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.”

Earlier this year, researchers at Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden studied more than 24,000 women and concluded; “the use of vitamin C supplements may be associated with higher risk of age-related cataract among women.”

11/9/10 20:26 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.