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For men, multivitamins might lower risk of cataracts

by AFP/RelaxNews

AFP/RelaxNews - 23 April 2014 11:18 AM | Updated 23 Apr 2014

For men, multivitamins might lower risk of cataracts

Photo: Charles Taylor/Shutterstock.com 

A new study published in the Journal of Ophthalmology has indicated lower cataract risk in men who take daily multivitamins. The study was conducted by a research team at the Harvard Medical School.

Half of the 14,641 US male doctors participating in the study took a multivitamin, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene supplements every day from 1997 to 2011. The other half took a placebo for the same amount of time. During the study period, 872 men who took the multivitamin developed cataracts, compared to 945 men who developed cataracts after taking the placebo. 

Findings concluded a nine per cent lower risk of developing cataracts during the course of the study, and a 13 per cent lower risk of developing the most common aging-related cataract, nuclear cataract.

"If multivitamins really do reduce the risk of cataract, even by a modest 10 per cent, this rather small reduction would nonetheless have a large public health impact," study researcher William Christen, ScD., said in a statement.

While this new research doesn't include why multivitamins appear linked to decreased cataract risk, the likely answer is antioxidants, as oxidative stress may be the reason for cataract development.

Other recent studies on multivitamins, such as a recent Annals of Internal Medicine editorial, indicated that multivitamins have very little effect in preventing chronic disease and other health problems. However, as noted by Emily Y. Chew, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, "eye health is somewhat different" in regards to multivitamin benefits. 

Additional research by the National Eye Institute has also suggested a link between supplement intake and a decreased risk of age-related eye diseases.

Chew also notes that food is the best medicine for eyes.

"Don't take supplements willy nilly, but remember that diet is important," she said. "Health starts with dietary habits."