Vitamin D Supplementation and the Incidence of Cataract Surgery in Older Australian Adults

Sabbir T. Rahman, Mary Waterhouse, Briony Duarte Romero, Catherine Baxter, Dallas English, David A. Mackey, Peter R. Ebeling, Bruce K. Armstrong, Donald S.A. McLeod, Gunter Hartel, Rachel L. O'Connell, Jolieke C. van der Pols, Alison J. Venn, Penelope M. Webb, David C. Whiteman, Rachel E. Neale

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Purpose: Observational studies suggest that higher serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D) concentration may be associated with lower risk of cataract. However, no randomized controlled trials have assessed the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the incidence of cataract. We aimed to assess whether vitamin D supplementation reduces the incidence of cataract surgery. Design: We conducted an ancillary study of the D-Health Trial, a randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial of monthly vitamin D conducted from 2014 through 2020 within the Australian general population. Participants: We invited 421 207 men and women 60 to 84 years of age to participate; including an additional 1896 volunteers, 40 824 expressed interest. Those with hypercalcemia, hyperparathyroidism, kidney stones, osteomalacia, or sarcoidosis or those who were taking more than 500 international units (IU) supplemental vitamin D per day were excluded. A total of 21 315 were randomized, and 1390 participants did not fulfil the eligibility criteria for this analysis (linked data available, no cataract within first 6 months), leaving 19 925 included. The median follow-up was 5 years. Methods: Participants took 60 000 IU of vitamin D3 (n = 10 662) or placebo (n = 10 653) orally once per month for a maximum of 5 years. Main Outcome Measures: The primary outcome for this analysis was the first surgical treatment for cataract, ascertained through linkage to universal health insurance records and hospital data. Results: Among 19 925 participants eligible for this analysis (mean age, 69.3 years; 46% women) 3668 participants (18.4%) underwent cataract surgery during follow-up (vitamin D: n = 1841 [18.5%]; placebo: n = 1827 [18.3%] ). The incidence of cataract surgery was similar between the two groups (incidence rate, 41.6 and 41.1 per 1000 person-years in the vitamin D and placebo groups, respectively; hazard ratio, 1.02; 95% confidence interval, 0.95–1.09). In prespecified subgroup analyses, the effect of vitamin D supplementation on the incidence of cataract surgery was not modified by age, sex, body mass index, predicted serum 25(OH)D concentration, or ambient ultraviolet radiation. Conclusions: Routinely supplementing older adults who live in an area with a low prevalence of vitamin D deficiency with high-dose vitamin D is unlikely to reduce the need for cataract surgery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-323
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Cataract
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Vision loss
  • Vitamin D

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