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January 31,  2002

Antioxidants May Slow the Progression of Age-Related Cataracts


 (SafetyAlerts) - Age-related cataracts (ARC) are the leading cause of acquired blindness in the United States. A new study published in the latest issue of Ophthalmic Epidemiology shows that antioxidant supplements may slow the progression of ARC.(1) In the Roche European American Cataract Trial (REACT), a supplement containing beta-carotene and vitamins E and C slowed the progression of cataracts. According to the authors, REACT is the first prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled intervention trial with antioxidant vitamin supplements.

Cataracts are the clouding of the lens in the eye, which leads to vision problems that can ultimately result in blindness. In this study, the progression of lens clouding was significantly reduced in the supplemented group, compared to those in the placebo group.

Participants in the REACT study were given a supplement containing 750 mg of vitamin C, 600 IU of vitamin E and 18 mg of beta-carotene. Current U.S. intake levels average around 90 mg of vitamin C, 9 mg of vitamin E and less than 2 mg of beta-carotene.

Two million cataract extractions are performed per year, making it the most common surgical procedure in the United States. For the individuals afflicted with cataracts, the disease can rob them of their independence, making everyday activities like reading or driving difficult or even impossible. Based on one analysis, it was estimated that a 10% reduction in cataract progression could reduce the number of cataract surgeries by 49%.(2)

The study's authors hypothesized that if subjects in the supplemented group continued their vitamin use over a 21-year period, they could achieve this 10% reduction. While the REACT authors do not suggest that vitamin treatment would reduce the need for cataract surgery by 50%, they note that long-term use of antioxidant vitamins could have a "sizable impact on the burden of providing cataract surgery for cataract-blind individuals."

REACT supports the findings from a number of earlier epidemiological studies that examined the role vitamins C and E may play in reducing the risk of cataracts. In 1999, researchers analyzed data from NHANES II (Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) and found that individuals with higher plasma vitamin C concentration had a lower risk of cataracts. In the Longitudinal Study of Cataract, individuals with higher plasma vitamin E also had a lower risk of cataracts.

REACT is a three-year clinical trial with 297 adults from the United States and England. Participants were outpatients from ophthalmology clinics and had been already diagnosed with early ARC.

The Vitamin Nutrition Information Service (VNIS) was founded by Roche Vitamins Inc. in 1979 as a source of accurate and credible vitamin information for health professionals, educators and communicators. The VNIS monitors and disseminates vitamin research, sponsors professional symposia on current vitamin topics and generates materials to educate professionals about the roles of vitamins in health

Source: PRNewswire.

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The information contained herein has been obtained from sources that the Company believes to be reliable, however, the Company has not independently verified or confirmed the information and the recipient acknowledges that no representations or warranties are being made in connection with the use of the information.