By TAP Integrative

Cataracts, in which the lens of the eye becomes clouded, increase in prevalence with age. They affect 2.9 percent of adults between the ages of 43 and 54 compared to 40 percent of those older than 75. Age-related cataract is the number one cause of blindness worldwide, affecting some 20 million people.

In addition to age, other factors associated with cataract risk include smoking, oxidative stress, and low dietary antioxidant intake. Some studies have looked at the effect of vitamin C—including dietary intake and serum concentrations—on cataract risk. The findings have been mixed. Some have found a protective effect, while others found either no effect or an effect only in certain groups. Vitamin E intake has been shown to be inversely related to cataract in some research. However, randomized clinical trials on vitamins C and E, either alone or in combination, have failed to find an effect. Vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin have been associated with reduced risk of cataract. Studies looking at dietary nutrients for the prevention of cataract progression have had similar results to those looking at reducing risk.

In a study published in the journal Ophthalmology, researchers studied 324 white female twins for whom cataract and nutritional data were available. The objective was to determine the heritability of and the effect of dietary micronutrients on cataract progression. The authors confirmed that genetic factors contribute to progression of cataracts over a 10-year period, with a heritability of 35 percent. In terms of nutrients, both vitamin C and manganese were protective against cataract formation. In addition, vitamin C intake was significantly associated with decreased cataract progression.

With the world’s aging population, cataracts will be a growing burden. Vitamin C is safe and widely available, and it shows protective effects against both formation and progression of cataracts.


Reference

Yonova-Doing E, Forkin ZA, Hysi PG, et al. Genetic and dietary factors influencing the progression of nuclear cataract. Ophthalmology. 2016 Mar 15. [Epub ahead of print]


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