Vision, Nutrition and Cataracts


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A cataract is the clouding of the eye's lens and is one of the most commonly-performed procedures in the U. S. The federal government spends more than $3.4 billion annually treating cataracts through the Medicare program. However, it has been estimated that, if the progression of this eye disease could be slowed down by a decade or so, a 45% drop in annual cataract surgery would follow.

Good nutrition can play a preventative role in delaying the onset and/or progression of the cataract. Here we are referring to age-related cataracts which occur when protein clusters up in the lens and causes opacity, or when the lens discolors due to the effects of aging.

Not all cataracts however are age-related, and therefore the nutrition link is not as important in the case of:

  • secondary cataracts which can follow surgery for other eye diseases like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.

  • congenital cataract which is present at birth.

  • traumatic cataract which can form following an injury to the eye, and

  • radiation cataract which forms after exposure to large doses of radiation.
  • On reflection, though, the nutrition link with secondary cataract is a valid connection to make. Type II diabetes is increasingly common in the Western world often as the result of over-eating on junk food. By raising blood sugar levels, diabetes can cause changes in the retina severe enough to impair both visual acuity and color vision.

    It could be argued that eating a healthy diet in the first place creates a virtuous circle by reducing the incidence of diabetic retinopathy, thereby reducing the number of surgical procedures to rectify the condition and reducing, in turn, the incidence of secondary cataract formation.

    Cataract formation, however, is predominantly a condition associated with aging and is an acquired vision defect. Lifestyle changes, then, and changing patterns of behavior – stopping smoking, wearing sunglasses to block out harmful ultraviolet rays and eating a healthy diet – can all contribute to the prevention and retardation of cataract formation.

    Let's examine more closely the connection between nutrition and cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin, which assist in the absorption of Vitamins C and E to counter damaging free radical activity in the eye, are found, like Vitamin C, in colorful fruit and vegetables. Kale and Collard greens top the list of good food sources for both lutein and zeaxanthin; broccoli, corn and peas are fairly good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin while persimmons and tangerines offer the least amount of these beneficial carotenoids.

    Nutrition promises to be one important weapon in the prevention and delayed progression of cataracts. Eat wisely, take nutritional supplements and the benefits over time could be plain to see!

    © 2006 Maureen P Cook
    In this article, Maureen Cook shows you how good nutrition can help in the prevention and delayed progression of cataracts.
    To read more, go to Vision and Nutrition


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