Past animal studies have suggested the supplements may have an effect on cataract development. But that may not be the case.
The authors of a new study found no link between taking vitamin E and selenium every day and the delayed onset of cataracts.
"Talk to your eye doctor about cataract screening."
"The search for a causal relationship between dietary supplements and cataract formation remains elusive," said Christopher Quinn, OD, president at Omni Eye Services in Iselin, New Jersey.
"Last year, the AREDS2 study failed to find a protective effect on cataract formation with daily oral supplementation with lutein/zeaxanthin and this study adds vitamin E and selenium to the list of nutrients which have not proven to be beneficial in preventing cataract formation," said Dr. Quinn, who was not involved in this study.
For this study, William Christen, ScD, of Harvard Medical School, and colleagues tested whether the nutrients vitamin E and selenium could help prevent cataracts.
Cataracts are an age-related buildup on the lens of the eye that can cloud vision. Selenium and vitamin E both occur naturally in the lens.
“Long-term daily supplemental use of vitamin E has no material impact on cataract incidence,” the authors wrote.
The authors also found no "beneficial effect" of selenium.
For the study, more than 11,000 men took selenium, vitamin E or both every day, and others took neither. The daily selenium dose was 200 micrograms. The vitamin E dose was 400 micrograms.
The study authors followed up with patients for an average of 5.6 years. All the men were older than 50.
Men taking selenium reported 185 cases of cataracts. Men who didn't take selenium reported 204.
Among men who took vitamin E, 197 had cataracts. Men not taking vitamin E had 192 cases.
The authors said the results showed no significant effect of the supplements on cataracts. They noted that the findings related to vitamin E are in line with those of other trials.
The study was published Sept. 18 in JAMA Ophthalmology.
The National Cancer Institute and other public health agencies funded the research. One study author received funding from Pfizer.