Cataract is a sign of aging that affects the eye and diminishes vision. Until then, it was considered inevitable, but a study in twins shows that a diet rich in vitamin C could slow down the progression of cataracts by a third in 10 years.
Cataracts, which occur naturally with age, remain globally the leading cause of blindness. Researchers at King’s College London have looked at the impact that certain nutrients could have in preventing the progression of this condition, and also discern the impact of the environment (including diet) from that of genetics. To do this, they looked at data from over 1,000 sets of twins in the UK.
Anti-oxidants protect the eyes
They scrutinized the intake of several nutrients, therefore vitamins A, B, C, D, E as well as copper, manganese and zinc. Cataract progression was assessed by digital imaging around age 60. Measurements were taken again from 324 pairs of twins 10 years later. It is mainly the antioxidant properties of nutrients that are thought to help protect the eye from oxidative damage and, therefore, from cataracts.
Vitamin C lowers the risk of cataracts by 33%
At baseline, consumption of vitamin C-rich foods is associated with a 20% reduction in the risk of cataracts. And 10 years later, women who reported consuming the most sources of vitamin C saw their risk of cataract progression reduced by 33%. The study also makes it possible to specify that genetic factors are involved for 35% in the progression of cataracts, against 65% for environmental factors.
The different types of cataracts
There are different types of cataract. Some of them are not age related.
- – Secondary cataract: it can develop after an eye operation for other pathologies, such as glaucoma, or as a result of health problems such as diabetes. Using steroids can increase the risk.
- – Traumatic cataract: an injury to the eye can trigger a cataract, up to several years later.
- – Cataract due to radiation: a certain type of radiation exposure can lead to the formation of a cataract.
– Congenital cataract: A cataract can be present at birth, often in both eyes. It does not always affect vision, but if it does, surgery may be needed.
How to prevent the occurrence of cataracts
To minimize cataract complications, it’s best to get regular eye exams, especially as you get older.
The following tips can reduce the risk of developing cataracts. The effectiveness of some of them has been proven, while others are unconfirmed.
– Stop smoking: Smoking increases the risk of a number of eye conditions, and studies have linked it to a three-fold increase in cataracts. It also appears that smokers may experience cataract symptoms earlier.
– Diet: A healthy diet reduces the risk of disease, including eye problems. A healthy diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, unrefined carbohydrates, good quality fats, such as avocado, olive oil and omega oils, and plant-based protein or lean proteins of animal origin.
– Lutein and zeaxanthin have been described as “promising” in the prevention of cataracts.
– Obesity and diabetes: Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a risk factor for cataracts. Maintaining a healthy weight and controlling diabetes can reduce this risk.
Other factors may help protect against cataracts:
- – Wear sunglasses that block UV rays when exposed to the sun.
- – Have at least 7 hours of continuous, good quality sleep each night.
risk factors for the occurrence of cataracts
There are many factors that put you at risk for cataracts, including:
Aging is certainly the main risk factor and the main cause of cataracts. The older you are, the more likely you are to have cataracts. Virtually anyone who lives to a ripe old age will develop cataracts to some degree.
Women have a higher risk than men.
Cataracts tend to run in families.
Glaucoma and glaucoma treatments increase the risk of cataracts.
Nearsighted people are more at risk.
This rare chronic inflammation of the eye, often caused by disease or an autoimmune reaction, creates a high risk of cataracts.
Previous physical injury or surgery
Significant physical injury to the eye or intraocular eye surgery increases the risk.
Type 1 or 2 diabetics have a very high risk of developing cataracts and are much more likely to develop them at a younger age.
Often associated with type 2 diabetes, it can also be a risk factor for cataracts.
Autoimmune diseases and conditions requiring the use of steroids
Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions that require long-term steroid use can increase the likelihood of cataracts.
Overexposure to the sun
Exposure to UVB rays from the sun increases the risk of cataracts. The risk may be higher in people who exposed themselves to the sun a lot in their youth. Having a job that requires prolonged exposure to the sun also increases the risk.
Smoking and alcohol consumption
Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day doubles the risk of developing cataracts. Chronic heavy drinkers are also at high risk for cataracts and other eye problems.
Long-term environmental exposure to lead can increase the risk of developing cataracts. The buildup of gold and copper can also cause cataracts. Prolonged exposure to ionizing radiation (such as X-rays) can increase the risk of cataracts.
Yonova-Doing, et al.Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear CataractOphthalmology, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2016.01.036