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Vitamins May Protect Against Cataracts

As Americans get older, the incidence of cataracts is expected to triple in the next half century. But the risk of this age-related condition, in which of the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and impairs vision, may be reduced by taking a daily multivitamin pill for 10 years or more, recent study findings suggest.

"There is evidence that certain dietary components, such as vitamins and minerals involved in protection against oxidative stress, may have a role in slowing cataract development," according to Dr. Julie A. Mares-Perlman from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School. There is "...a body of evidence suggesting lower risk for cataract among users of vitamin supplements and stronger associations with long-term use,"

In the new study, the researchers examined data from more than 3,000 people aged 43 to 86. Individuals who took a multivitamin or a supplement that contained vitamin C or E for more than 10 years had a 60% lower risk of developing a cataract regardless of other risk factors.

For example, the relationship between long-term supplement use and lower cataract risk remained regardless of smoking, alcohol use, diabetes, age, weight and physical activity. But taking multivitamins or supplements for less than 10 years did not appear to lower the risk of developing a cataract.

Source: Archives of Ophthalmology 2000;118:1556-1563.