Increased vitamin C in the diet could help protect against cataracts

March 23, 2016, King's College London
Vitamin C rich foods can cut cataract progression by a third, a new study shows. Credit: American Academy of Ophthalmology

Higher dietary intake of vitamin C has been found to have a potentially preventative effect on cataract progression in the first twin study of cataracts to examine to what degree genetic and environmental factors influence their progression with age.

Cataract is a common condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy as a result of oxidation over time. Whilst this is a natural part of ageing for many, for others it is more severe and causes blurred vision, glare and dazzle that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the UK with more than 300,000 procedures carried out each year.

The study, led by King's College London and published in the journal Ophthalmology, looked at 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 participant's lenses that allowed them to analyse the level of opacity of the lens in detail. Participant intake of vitamin C was also measured using a food questionnaire.

They found that those participants who had a higher intake of vitamin C were associated with a 33 per cent risk reduction of cataract progression and had 'clearer' lenses after the 10 years than those who had consumed less vitamin C as part of their diet.

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Guide Dogs for the Blind, also found that (including diet) influenced cataract more than genetic factors, which only explained a third of the change in lens opacity.

The fluid in the eye that bathes the lens is high in vitamin C, which helps to stop the lens from oxidising and protects it from becoming cloudy. It is thought that increased intake of vitamin C has a protective effect on cataract progression by increasing the vitamin C available in the eye fluid.

Professor Chris Hammond, consultant eye surgeon and lead author of the study from the Division of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences, said: '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.

'While we cannot avoid getting older, diabetes and smoking are also risk factors for this type of cataract, and so a and lifestyle generally should reduce the risk of needing a cataract operation.'

Kate Yonova-Doing, the study's first author said: 'The human body cannot manufacture vitamin C, so we depend on vitamins in the food we eat. We did not find a significantly reduced risk in people who took vitamin tablets, so it seems that a is better than supplements.'

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting approximately 20 million people, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where healthcare is less readily available.

Limitations of the study include that the participants are predominantly of UK-origin and female, reflecting cataract progression between the ages of 60 and 70 years on average, so may not be generalisable.

Also, observational studies like this cannot rule out the impact of other factors relating to a healthy diet that may also have had an effect on the progression of cataracts.

Explore further: Vitamin E, selenium supplements unlikely to effect age-related cataracts in men

More information: Ekaterina Yonova-Doing et al. Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract, Ophthalmology (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2016.01.036

Related Stories

Vitamin E, selenium supplements unlikely to effect age-related cataracts in men

September 18, 2014
Taking daily supplements of selenium and/or vitamin E appears to have no significant effect on the development of age-related cataracts in men, writes Author William G. Christen, Sc.D., of Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard ...

Cataract risk not down with long-tem selenium, vitamin E

January 9, 2015
(HealthDay)—Long-term supplementation with selenium or vitamin E is not associated with a reduction in the risk of age-related cataract among men, according to a study published in the January issue of JAMA Ophthalmology.

MTHFR polymorphism, higher homocysteine up cataract risk

March 21, 2016
(HealthDay)—Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) polymorphism and elevated homocysteine levels contribute to the risk of cortical cataract, separately and together, according to a study published online March 17 ...

No added benefits with laser in cataract sx + toric lens insertion

March 17, 2016
(HealthDay)—For patients undergoing toric intraocular lens insertion, visual outcomes are similar for femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (LCS) and phacoemulsification cataract surgery (PCS), according to research ...

Cataract surgery lessens patients' dizziness

November 24, 2015
Older people with visual impairment can report feeling dizzy and falling. A new study found that after routine cataract surgery, the improved vision led to patients experiencing significantly less dizziness, although they ...

Recommended for you

Researchers report vision-based neurotransmitter events for the first time

November 27, 2018
How does vision work, and what happens in the brain during the process? As simple as this question may sound, it has yet to be scientifically clarified. Dr. Valentin Riedl of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and his ...

Minimally invasive retinal detachment has better outcomes, clinical trial findings

November 26, 2018
A minimally invasive treatment for retinal detachment gives patients sharper vision, less distortion and reduced side-effects, according to the findings of a randomized controlled trial performed at St. Michael's Hospital ...

Scientists combine technologies to view the retina in unprecedented detail

November 14, 2018
By combining two imaging modalities—adaptive optics and angiography—investigators at the National Eye Institute (NEI) can see live neurons, epithelial cells, and blood vessels deep in the eye's light-sensing retina. Resolving ...

Eyepatch with dissolvable needles used to treat eye disease

November 12, 2018
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Singapore has developed an eyepatch with dissolvable needles for use in treating eye diseases. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the ...

Calcifications in the eye increase risk for progression to advanced AMD by more than six times

November 8, 2018
Calcified nodules in the retina are associated with progression to late stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Experts from Queen's University Belfast, working in partnership with the University of Alabama of Birmingham ...

Traditional glaucoma test can miss severity of disease

November 8, 2018
The most common tests for glaucoma can underestimate the severity of the condition by not detecting the presence of central vision loss, according to a new Columbia University study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.