Vitamin C is associated with reduced risk of cataract in a Mediterranean population

J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6):1299-306. doi: 10.1093/jn/132.6.1299.


Cataract is an important visual problem of older people and a substantial health care cost in many countries. Most studies investigating risk factors for cataract have been conducted in the United States, and there is less information on the possible role of dietary factors in European populations. We conducted a case-control study to investigate the association of antioxidant vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein) and minerals (zinc and selenium) and risk of cataract in a Mediterranean population. Cases with cataract (343) and 334 age/sex frequency-matched controls aged 55 to 74 y were selected from an ophthalmic outreach clinic in Valencia, Spain. Participants were interviewed about their diet using a Food Frequency Questionnaire, and other information on potential confounders, such as smoking, alcohol, and education. Blood samples were analyzed by a colorimetric method for vitamin C and by reversed-phase HLPC for other blood antioxidants. Blood levels of vitamin C above 49 micromol/L were associated with a 64% reduced odds for cataract (P < 0.0001). Dietary intake of vitamins C, E and selenium were marginally associated with decreased odds (P = 0.09, P = 0.09, P = 0.07, respectively), whereas moderately high levels of blood lycopene (>0.30 micromol/L) were associated with a 46% increased odds of cataract (P = 0.04). Our results strengthen the evidence for a protective role for vitamin C on the aging lens as this effect was seen in a population characterized by high vitamin C intakes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / blood
  • Aging / physiology
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Antioxidants / analysis*
  • Ascorbic Acid / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cataract / blood
  • Cataract / epidemiology*
  • Cataract / etiology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Colorimetry
  • Diet Surveys
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minerals / blood
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vitamins / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Ascorbic Acid