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Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Vitamin C May Prevent Cataracts

NEW YORK, Oct. 23, 2001 -- The following release was issued today by the Vitamin Nutrition Information Service (VNIS):

Vitamins C and E and two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, may play a role in preventing cataracts, according to a study published in the July 2001 issue of The Archives of Ophthalmology.1 Researchers found that individuals with the highest intakes of vitamin C, vitamin E, and lutein/zeaxanthin had significantly lower rates of cataracts.

Study Findings

The researchers also found that subjects who used vitamin C (140-300 mg/daily) for 10 or more years had significantly lower rates of cataracts than women who were non-supplement users. The Tufts University researchers noted that women with lutein/zeaxanthin intakes above 2.4 mg per day may have a lower risk of cataracts. The study, led by Allen Taylor, Ph.D. of Tufts University, followed 478 women, aged 53 to 73 years, without previously diagnosed cataracts for a 13 - 15 year period.

Taylor's study is one of the latest studies to highlight the role that vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin play in preventing cataracts. His research supports findings from NHANES II (Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Study) and the Beaver Dam Eye study. An analysis of NHANES II data found that higher blood levels of vitamin C were associated with a lower risk of cataracts.2

The Beaver Dam Eye Study showed a strong inverse association between lutein intake and incidence of nuclear cataracts -- a 30 percent to 40 percent risk reduction of cataracts for persons with the highest lutein intakes.3

Related Information

More than half of all Americans aged 65 and older have some evidence of cataracts.4 Cataract extractions are the most common surgical procedure performed in the U.S., accounting for more than 2 million procedures each year.5 Epidemiologists at the National Eye Institute have estimated that if the progression of cataracts could be delayed by 10 years, the number of cataract extraction surgeries per year would be reduced by 45 percent.6

Given wise choices of fruits and vegetables, the 5 A Day pattern of eating, currently recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will provide about 225-250 mg of vitamin C and about 5-6 mg of carotenoids. However, the majority of people in the U.S. are not presently meeting the 5 A Day guidelines. Current intake levels of vitamin C average 90mg/day while lutein/zeaxanthin intakes average 2-4 mg per day.


Taylor, et al. Long-term nutrient intake and early age-related nuclear lens opacities. "Arch Ophthalmol." 119:1009-1019, 2001.

Mares-Perlman et al. Association of zinc and antioxidant nutrients with age-related maculopathy. "Arch Ophthalmol." 114(8):991-997,1996.

Simon et al. Serum ascorbic acid and other correlates of self-reported cataract among older Americans. "J Clin Epidemiol." 52(12):207-211, 1999.

National Eye Institute. http://www.nei.nih.gov

Ruthow et al. Surgical operations in the United States: Then (1983) and Now (1994). "Arch Surg." 132:983-990, 1997.

Kupfer et al. National Eye Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD. The Conquest of Cataract: A Global Challenge. "Trans Ophthalmol"

Key concepts: lutein, zeaxanthin, carotenoids, vitamin C, E, cataracts