Vitamins E and B May Slow Lens Opacity

Long-term use of vitamin E supplements, as well as increased intake of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and/or thiamin (vitamin B1), may help reduce the progression of age-related lens opacification.

Lens opacification (or clouding) is caused by the disruption of the transmission of light through the eye lens due to damage to the lens cells.  When the opacification creates a reduction in visual acuity, it is referred to as a cataract.   Studies suggest that oxidation is responsible for much of the damage to the lens and that antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, might protect the lens against formation of cataract.

Researchers conducted a five-year study of 408 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, aged 52 to 74 years at baseline. The women’s nutrient intake was calculated from five food frequency questionnaires collected over a 13- to 15-year period.  During this time the duration of vitamin supplement use was assessed using seven questionnaires.  At the end of this period the degree of nuclear density was determined.

Women who never supplemented with vitamin E had a 42% higher risk of getting cataracts than women who had supplemented vitamin E for 10 years.

Researchers concluded that long-term use of vitamin E supplements and higher riboflavin and/or thiamin intake may reduce the progression of age-related lens opacification.

Where can you find good sources of these vitamins?

  • Vitamin E can be found in almonds, asparagus, avocado, nuts, olives, red palm oil, seeds, spinach and other leafy vegetables, wheat germ, and milk
  • Riboflavin is found naturally in asparagus, bananas, okra, chard, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, meat, eggs and fish.
  • Foods rich in thiamin include yeast, oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain flour (rye or wheat), asparagus, kale, cauliflower, potatoes, oranges, liver (beef or pork), and eggs.

Learn more about cataracts including recommended vitamins and supplements

Source:  Jacques, et al, Long-term Nutrient Intake and 5-Year Change in Nuclear Lens Opacities, Arch Ophthalmol. 2005;123:517-526.