The use of vitamin supplements and the risk of cataract among US male physicians

Am J Public Health. 1994 May;84(5):788-92. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.5.788.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine prospectively the association between reported use of vitamin supplements and risk of cataract and cataract extraction.

Methods: The study population consisted of 17,744 participants in the Physicians' Health Study, a randomized trial of aspirin therapy and beta-carotene among US male physicians 40 to 84 years of age in 1982 who did not report cataract at baseline and provided complete information about vitamin supplementation and other risk factors for cataract. Self-reports of cataract and cataract extraction were confirmed by medical record review.

Results: During 60 months of follow-up, there were 370 incident cataracts and 109 cataract extractions. In comparison with physicians who did not use any supplements, those who took only multivitamins had a relative risk of cataract of 0.73 after adjustment for other risk factors. For cataract extraction, the corresponding relative risk was 0.79. Use of vitamin C and/or E supplements alone was not associated with a reduced risk of cataract, but the size of this subgroup was small.

Conclusions: These data suggest that men who took multivitamin supplements tended to experience a decreased risk of cataract and support the need for rigorous testing of this hypothesis in large-scale randomized trials in men and women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Cataract / epidemiology
  • Cataract / prevention & control*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin E
  • Ascorbic Acid