By Dr. Mark S. Siegel
What do grapefruit, broccoli and strawberries have in common?
They are foods loaded with vitamin C, which could help slow cataract progression, according to a British study.
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens that happens naturally with age. The condition is the leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
Researchers from King’s College London examined data from more than 1,000 pairs of female twins to see what factors may help keep cataracts at bay. They tracked intake of vitamin C and other nutrients from food and supplements. They also recorded how opaque the subjects’ lenses were at around age 60, with a follow-up on 324 sets of twins about 10 years later.
Women who reported consuming more vitamin C-rich foods had a 33 percent risk reduction of cataract progression over the decade, according to the study. Their lenses overall were more clear.
Although we cannot totally avoid developing cataracts, we may be able to delay their onset and keep them from worsening significantly by eating a diet rich in vitamin C. The researchers noted that the findings only pertain to vitamins consumed through food and not supplements.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. The fluid inside the eyeball is normally high in a compound similar to vitamin C, which helps prevent oxidation that results in a clouded lens. Scientists believe more vitamin C in the diet may increase the amount present around the lens, providing extra protection.
Because the study was done in twins, the team was also able to calculate how much of a role genetics versus environmental factors play in cataract progression. While environmental factors, such as diet, accounted for 65 percent, genetic factors only accounted for 35, indicating that diet and lifestyle may outweigh genetics.
The study, “Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract“ will be published this June in Ophthalmology, the official journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.