Eating foods high in vitamin C reduces cataract progression by up to 33 percent, according to a study led by researchers at King’s College London. In their study published in the journal Ophthalmology, they explain that vitamin C stops the eye lens from oxidising, which clouds the lens.
The fluid inside the eye helps prevents oxidation and contains high vitamin C levels. A diet high in vitamin C increases the amount in the fluid, therefore protecting the eye lens.
“The findings of this study could have a 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,” says lead author Chris Hammond, a consultant eye surgeon. “While we cannot avoid getting older, diabetes and smoking are also risk factors for this type of cataract, and so a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle generally should reduce the risk of needing a cataract operation.”
The study, funded by Wellcome Trust and Guide Dogs for the Blind, involved examining 324 pairs of female twins with cataracts for 10 years. The researchers inquired about their dietary intake of the vitamin in a food questionnaire and observed their eyes’ level of opacity through photographs of their lenses.
A higher dietary intake of vitamin C led to a reduction of cataract progression by up to 33 percent. The participants who ate more foods high in vitamin C had clearer lenses than those who ate less.
However, the researchers do not insist that people should start taking vitamin C supplements because the same benefits have not been observed in people who took vitamin tablets. They suggest that consuming a healthy diet is more ideal. Moreover, they found that environmental factors, including diet, influence cataract development more than genetic factors. Genetic factors only account for a third of lens opacity changes.
Cataract affects 20 million globally, making it the leading cause of blindness. The lens becomes cloudy due to oxidation but it cannot be solved by simply wearing glasses or contact lenses in some cases.