In recent study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology (Arch. Ophthalmol. 2008;126:102-9) gathered from the Women's Health Study, vitamin E and the carotenoid lutein were both found to be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts.
The Women's Health Study (WHS) was a randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving nearly 40,000 women health professionals aged 45 years and older at inception of the study in 1993.
In this recent study gathered from the WHS, the researchers assessed the antioxidant intake (from food and supplements) of 35,551 women and followed them for an average of ten years. They divided the women's intake into 5 groups, ...groups with the lowest intake, to the next highest intake, to the next highest intake, etc. When women with the highest intake of lutein/zeaxanthin (mean intake of 6.7 mg/day) were compared to the group with the lowest intake (mean of 1.2 mg/day) they found an 18% decrease in the risk of cataracts.
Similarly, when women in the highest intake group of vitamin E (mean 262 mg/day, or 390 IU/day; 1 mg alpha-tocopherol = 1.49 IU) were compared to women in the lowest intake group of vitamin E (mean 4.4 mg/day, or 6.5 IU/day), there found a 14% decrease in cataracts.
This study adds to existing observational studies that xanthophyll carotenoids lutein (and its stereo-isomer, zeaxanthin) may delay cataract formation. (BTW, in animal studies, grape seed extract has been found to reduce the formation of cataracts as well.) Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate in the tissues of the eye, ...including the lens and retina.
Personally, I take a broad spectrum multi-antioxidant and minerals in chelated form, fish oil, grape seed extract, and additional lutein/zeaxanthin and bilberry extract supplement (for a total lutein intake of 13 mg per day, ...well above the mean intake of the top fifth group of this study). In addition, I take an additional vitamin E supplement, that has the full family of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol, d-gamma tocopherol, delta tocopherol, and the tocotrienols), for a combined total of 600 IU/day.
For optimal eye health of the lens and retina (macular degeneration is the number one cause of blindness after the age of 40), as well as maintaining health in a time of increasing risk of chronic degenerative disease, I recommend an optimal intake of various antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids.