Background: The potential protective effect of vitamins C and E against the development of diabetic retinopathy has not been thoroughly evaluated in epidemiologic studies.
Objective: The objective was to study the association between prevalent diabetic retinopathy and intake of vitamins C and E in participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.
Design: A total of 1353 subjects with type 2 diabetes diagnosed between 1993 and 1995 or before were included. Nutrient intake was assessed with a food-frequency and supplement questionnaire administered between 1987-1989 and 1993-1995. Prevalent retinopathy (n = 224) was determined in 1993-1995 from graded fundus photographs.
Results: No association of retinopathy with intake of vitamin C or E from food alone or from food and supplements combined was observed. The odds ratios and 95% CIs for retinopathy for quartile 4 compared with quartile 1 of vitamins C and E intakes from food and supplements combined were 1.1 (0.7, 1.9) and 1.3 (0.8, 2.2), respectively, after adjustment for diabetes treatment and serum glucose. There was a significant interaction of the observed relations with serum glucose concentration (P < 0.05). Additionally, a decreased odds of retinopathy was found among users (reported use > or =3 y before 1993-1995) of vitamin C or E supplements or multisupplements compared with reported use of no supplements: 0.5 (0.3, 0.8), 0.5 (0.2, 0.8), and 0.4 (0.2, 0.9), respectively.
Conclusion: No significant overall associations were observed between risk of retinopathy and intake of major dietary antioxidants. The observed association between risk of retinopathy and supplement use may reflect nondietary factors or a possible benefit of supplementation.