Formerly thought of as an inevitable aspect of aging, new research suggests that cataracts need not cloud our golden years after all. Higher dietary intake of vitamin C may help prevent them, according to a new study. In fact, diet may play a greater role than genetics when it comes to cloudy lenses.
By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery, according to the National Eye Institute. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world.
King’s College researchers in London analyzed the progression of cataracts in the eyes of 324 pairs of female twins from the Twins UK registry over 10 years by examining photographs of the participants’ lenses that let them see the level of opacity of the lens in detail. They measured the subjects’ vitamin C intake through food questionnaires.
Subjects with a higher intake of vitamin C were associated with a 33 percent risk reduction of cataract progression and had clearer lenses after 10 years compared with the subjects who ate less vitamin C. No similar reduction was found among people who took vitamin C supplements, only among those who included foods with high-levels of the vitamin in their diet. Previous research suggested that antioxidants consumed through diet may also help prevent age-related cataracts.
Professor Chris Hammond, consultant eye surgeon and lead author of the study from the Division of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences, said in a release: “The findings of this study could have significant impact, particularly for the ageing population globally by suggesting that simple dietary changes such as increased intake of fruit and vegetables as part of a healthier diet could help protect them from cataracts.”