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September 2014

Vitamin E, Selenium Might Not Prevent Cataracts

Contrary to previous findings, new research suggests that taking vitamin E and selenium supplements might not prevent cataracts.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Vitamin E has been studied for the prevention or treatment of many health conditions. Selenium is an essential trace mineral found in soil, water, and some foods. Selenium is required for the functioning of the body's antioxidant enzymes and for cell growth and survival.

In a new study, researchers analyzed data on 11,267 men from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) Eye Endpoints Study. Participants were given 200 micrograms of selenium (L-selenomethione), 400 IU of vitamin E (rac-alpha-tocoperyl acetate), or placebo.

Throughout an average treatment and follow-up period of 5.6 years, 389 cases of cataracts where reported. The researchers found that taking neither vitamin E nor selenium appeared to reduce the risk of cataracts, with 185 cases developing for men taking selenium and 204 cases developing for men not taking selenium. Similarly, 197 cataract cases developed for men taking vitamin E, while 192 cases developed for men taking placebo.

The authors concluded that taking vitamin E and selenium supplements is unlikely to prevent cataracts from developing in otherwise healthy men. Further research is warranted.

For information about vitamin E or selenium, please visit Natural Standard’s Food, Herbs & Supplements Database.

For information about integrative therapies for cataract prevention, please visit Natural Standard’s Comparative Effectiveness Database.


  1. Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Gaziano JM, et al. Age-Related Cataract in Men in the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial Eye Endpoints Study: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014 Sep 18. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2014.3478.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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