Vitamin C reduces the chance of cataracts

I have recently written a blog about the benefits of vitamin supplementation in reducing the risk of age related macular degeneration progression. I’d now like to let you know about an interesting study that has been recently published. This article shows that vitamin C could reduce the risk of cataract formation (1).

I have recently discussed the causes of cataract and you may recall that ageing is the main cause. Over one-third of patients over the age of 65 will have some degree of cataract formation. There are also other causes of cataract. This may consist smoking, diabetes and side effects from steroid medication.

I have also mentioned that diet can affect cataract development. People who eat a meat-free diet may have a reduced risk of developing cataracts.

The most recent study from Kings College London looked at 324 female pairs of twins. They looked at their dietary habits. The researchers found the following results. Those who had a higher amount of dietary vitamin C had a 33% less chance of developing cataract over 10 years than those who had less vitamin C in their diet.

This effect was only seen in vitamin C intake through food and not vitamin supplementation.

There was another interesting finding from this study. Environmental factors such as diet contributed to 65% of cataract progression compared to 32% from genetic factors.

Why would vitamin C play a role in preventing the development of cataract?

Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant. Oxidation is thought to play a role in causing the proteins in our lens to go cloudy when cataracts are formed. Preventing this process has the potential to slow the formation of cataracts.

Why do vitamin C supplements not have the same effect of cataract progression as vitamin C derived from food?

This is an interesting question and the simple answer is we do not know. This particular study did not show that vitamin C tablets had a benefit on preventing cataracts. It may be true that the numbers of people taking vitamin C tablets were too small to provide meaningful data. Larger studies that specifically look at this question may be helpful in the future.

Would you like to reduce your risk of developing cataracts?

It would be sensible to protect your eyes from ultra-violet light from the sun. Furthermore, you should stop smoking. Control your blood sugars if you are diabetic. Eat a balanced diet of fruit and vegetables and live an active lifestyle. Unfortunately getting older and changing your genetics are not things you can modify.

If you do develop cataracts that affect your vision, there is always the option of cataract surgery to remove them. This surgery restores vision safely and successfully in the very large majority of people.

If you have cataracts or would like more information about how you can prevent them, please feel free to call me on 020 7952 2826.  I would be happy to discuss your specific needs.