Reduce Cataract Risk With Dietary Antioxidants

Cataract With Surgical Instrument

From 2000 to 2010, the number of cataract cases in the United States rose from 20.5 million to 24.4 million. The National Eye Institute estimates the number of people with cataracts will double from 24.4 million in 2010 to 50 million by 2050. Cataracts are cloudy patches that develops in the lens of the eye, causing blurred vision. This eye disease is the leading cause of visual impairment in aging Americans. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States, accounting for 3.6 million procedures in 2015. The average cost for those without Medicare was $3,497 per eye in the first half of 2017. Cataract surgeries are considered relatively safe although wouldn't it be preferable to not need this procedure?

Studies have shown that diets high in antioxidants and phytochemicals can provide the required nutrition for maintaining healthy eyes and protecting the eye against developing cataracts. The findings of a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that high blood levels of antioxidants decreased the risk of developing age-related cataracts. Another study conducted by a team of researchers from India show that the chances of developing cataracts is lower in individuals who consistently consumed generous portions of foods high in vitamin C, compared to persons who rarely consume or completely avoid foods rich in vitamin C.

Cataract-Protective Action of Dietary Antioxidants

While the exact cause of cataracts is still unknown, experts believe that oxidative stress plays a significant role in the development of cataracts. "The data suggest that the epithelial cell layer is the initial site of attack by oxidative stress and that involvement of the lens fibers follows, leading to cortical cataract.Oxidative stress results when there is an imbalance between harmful free radicals roaming in the body and the antioxidants that keep them in check. Excess free radicals cause damage to the eye by oxidizing proteins and fats in the lens to cloudy particles, resulting in the formation of cataracts. Antioxidants help neutralize the effects of dangerous free radicals on the eye, thus reducing the likelihood of developing cataracts.

Shape up Your Diet for Good Vision

Vegetable oils in the diet of women were highly correlated with the development of cataracts, in this study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dietary fat intake and early age-related lens opacities. Habitual consumption of diets full of antioxidants and phytochemicals is a great way to prevent the occurrence, and delay the progression of cataracts. Poultry, fish, seafood, and meat never contain antioxidants. Plants do! Dark green and colorful fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of eye friendly antioxidants, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C and E. Consume an abundance of fruits and vegetables with high antioxidant content along with whole food starches and legumes. So, to avoid cataracts, what should be on the plate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Try oil-free, unprocessed whole plant foods, which are rich in antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals. 

Vegans enjoyed a 40% lower risk for cataracts, compared to those who ate at least 1 serving of meat daily.
Diet, Vegetarianism, and Cataract Risk by P. Appleby, N. Allen, T. Key; Amer. J. Clin. Nutrition 2011:93: 1128-35

Additional Information:

(1) National Eye Institute: Cataracts

(2) Association of blood antioxidants and vitamins with risk of age-related cataract: a meta-analysis of observational studies 

(3) Inverse Association of Vitamin C With Cataract in Older People in India

(4) Oxidative Stress-Induced Cataract: Mechanism of Action

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