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Multivitamins Could Reduce Risk of Cataracts in Men

Update Date: Feb 21, 2014 09:32 AM EST

Recent studies have found no evidence that taking multivitamins and supplements help prevent heart disease and other health conditions. The researchers of these studies concluded that buying multivitamins was a waste of money. However, according to a more recent study, researchers are reporting that long-term daily use of multivitamin supplements could help reduce a man's risk of cataracts.

In this study, the research team from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined 14,641 male physicians who were a part of the Physicians' Health Study II (PHS II). The physicians were from the United States and were aged 50 or older. The team conducted a randomized, double-blind study from 1997 to 2011. Half of the sample set was given a multivitamin along with vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene supplements to take every day. The remaining participants acted as the control group and took a placebo. The team then monitored for two of the most common eye diseases, which were cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Cataracts occur when the eye lens start to get cloudy and AMD occurs when the eye's macula, which helps people see fine detail, starts to deteriorate. The researchers reported that in the placebo group, 945 people reported cataracts, which were confirmed by medical records. In the multivitamin group, only 872 people reported developing cataracts. The researchers calculated that the multivitamin group had a nine percent reduced risk of cataracts. When it came to nuclear cataract, which occurs at the center of the lens, the multivitamin group had a 13 percent reduced risk. For AMD, the multivitamin group had 152 new cases where as the placebo group had 129. The researchers reported that the difference, however, was not statistically significant

"If multivitamins really do reduce the risk of cataract, even by a modest 10 percent, this rather small reduction would nonetheless have a large public health impact," said William Christen, ScD, the study's lead author and researcher from Harvard Medical School according to the press release. "This finding of more cases of AMD in the multivitamin group than in the placebo group, although not statistically significant, does raise some concerns. Clearly, this finding needs to be examined further in other trials of multivitamin supplements in both men and women."

The study was published in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology's Ophthalmology.

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