In an animal study, vitamin E significantly inhibited the formation of cataracts associated with exposure to ultraviolet light, report researchers at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden.*
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide and of visual impairment in the US. Exposure to sunlight, particularly ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, is a significant risk factor for cataracts.
In the Swedish study, rats were divided into two groups and exposed to UVB light. One group served as controls and received no supplements, while the other was fed vitamin E. At the study’s end, eye lenses were evaluated for opacities and levels of vitamin E and glutathione.
As anticipated, the control group of rats developed cataracts. In contrast, the vitamin E-fed rats exhibited only slight opacities in their eye lenses. Vitamin E and glutathione levels were significantly higher in the lenses of the supplemented rats than in those of the control group.
The researchers concluded that the antioxidant vitamin E helped prevent cataract formation either directly through its own action or indirectly through the modulation of glutathione synthesis. Gluta-thione is an endogenous (internally produced) antioxidant that, like vitamin E, scavenges free radicals and peroxides that would otherwise oxidize protein, lipids, and nucleic acids.
The risk of cataracts in adults is related to the cumulative dose of UVB light. Because even low levels of UVB light can damage the eye lens, simple measures such as wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, as well as supplementing with vitamin E, are strongly recommended to help protect against cataract formation and related vision loss.
—Linda M. Smith, RN