Many health supplement companies, and some medical experts, have recommended vitamin E and selenium for reducing the risk for cataracts. But a large new study has found they are unlikely to provide benefit, though selenium might have a small effect.
Researchers randomly assigned 11,267 men over 50 to four groups of about 2,800 each. Members of one group took a daily placebo, those in the second took 400 IU of vitamin E daily, those in a third took 200 micrograms of selenium a day, and those in the fourth group took both vitamin E and selenium.
The five-year study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, found 389 confirmed cataracts: 98 in those who took vitamin E, 99 in those who took both supplements, 86 in those who took only selenium, and 106 in the placebo group. None of the differences was statistically significant, though selenium showed a trend that suggests it might have a slight benefit; additional research would be needed.
“The results are consistent with earlier trials of vitamin E,” said the lead author, William G. Christen, an associate professor of medicine at
Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They show that for cataracts, the effect is nothing.”
But, he added, “These are the first data on selenium alone, and we can’t rule out a small but still important effect.”