Vitamin E, Selenium, and Cataracts

Americans spend billions of dollars a year on supplements. It’s a shocking amount, but the number continues to grow every year. It makes sense. We buy supplements hoping they make us live longer, have more energy, or just feel better. But do they do as advertised? Studies have shown that health supplement companies have a long history of making outsized claims. One such claim has been that vitamin E supplements prevent cataracts. A new study disagrees with the claim.

The study looked at nearly 12,000 people divided into four groups. One group took 400 IU of vitamin E daily, one was given a placebo, another took 200 micrograms of selenium a day, and the last group took doses of both selenium and vitamin E. The study lasted 5 years. The results weren’t clear-cut, but it showed a slight positive edge to one of the supplements.

In the past, some supplement companies claimed that vitamin E supplements decreased the possibility of cataracts. This study showed that vitamin had no effect on cataracts. Here’s how the results turned out: Cataracts showed up in the following numbers in each group:

• 98 in the group that just took vitamin E

• 99 in the group that took both supplements

• 86 for those who took selenium

• 106 in the placebo group

Lead author, William G. Christen stated that the results showed what has been thought for a long time: vitamin E does not prevent cataracts.

As you can see, the selenium group had the lowest number of people who developed cataracts. This is the first study that has test selenium’s effect on cataracts. Researchers aren’t ready to declare selenium an effective guard against cataracts, but this looks like a positive development.

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