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Preventing cataracts

MagazineJanuary 2015 (Vol. 25 Issue 10)Preventing cataracts

QI'm a 60-year-old woman, and I've just been told by my doctor that I have the beginnings of a cataract developing in one eye

Preventing cataracts
QI'm a 60-year-old woman, and I've just been told by my doctor that I have the beginnings of a cataract developing in one eye. He didn't offer much advice other than to
be diligent about wearing sunglasses. Can you suggest any other ways to prevent the problem getting worse? E.E., London ACataracts-cloudy, opaque patches in the lens of the eye-are often considered an inevitable part of growing old. But research suggests that diet, lifestyle and even prescription drugs can play a role in their development, so there's plenty you can do now to try to stop the condition from antioxidants found in darkgreen leafy vegetables as well as in kiwi fruit, grapes, corn and egg yolk-have been associated with a 32 per cent lower risk of nuclear cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both known to accumulate in the lens of the eye and can protect against photodamage (caused by ultraviolet radiation), which predisposes
to cataracts.4 Other antioxidants that may also be of benefit are vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and zinc. A 10-year study of more than 2,400 adults aged 49 or older in Sydney, Australia,
found that higher intakes of vitamin C (from either food or supplements) or the combined intake of multiple antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and zinc)
significantly reduced cataract development.5 Oxidative stress is thought to play role in cataract formation, so it makes sense that antioxidants-which mop up free radicals that damage proteins and fibre cells in the lens-can be protective.

A study in North India showed that having higher levels of antioxidants in the blood- including vitamin C, alpha-/ beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene-led to a significantly lower likelihood of having cataracts.6 As well as eating an antioxidant-rich diet (think lots of colourful fruit and veg), WDDTY's resident Medical Detective Dr Harald Gaier recommends taking Nutricology's OcuDyne II capsules (available from www. vitaminsuk.com), which contain lutein, zeaxanthin, and a host of other antioxidants and useful nutrients like bilberry and vitamin E (see box, opposite page). Statins, steroids, SSRIs, HRT and numerous other drugs have been linked to cataracts progressing. Here are some simple strategies that may prove helpful. Check your meds Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), hormone replacement therapy (HRT), statins, steroids and numerous other drugs have been linked to cataracts.1 In one study of more than 200,000 elderly patients, those taking SSRIs-the most widely prescribed antidepressants in many countries-were 15 per cent more likely to have cataracts. The association was especially strong for Luvox (fluvoxamine), which increased cataract risk by 39 per cent.2 Speak to your doctor to see if any drugs you're taking might be increasing your risk of cataracts.

If so, it may be well worth investigating alternatives. Eat well You may be able to eat your way to healthier eyes, according to a study of more than 18,000 women. Those with a high Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-intakes at or above the recommended levels for vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and meat (or beans, fish or eggs), and belowrecommended levels of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and salt-had a 37 per cent lower risk of developing nuclear cataracts (those forming in the centre of the lens), the most common type of cataract. "Eating foods rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals may contribute to postponing the occurrence of the most common type of cataract in the United States," the researchers concluded.3Up your antioxidants A diet rich in free-radicalfighting antioxidants and/ or antioxidant supplements might be especially helpful for warding off cataracts.

High dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin-potent antioxidants found in darkgreen leafy vegetables as wellas in kiwi fruit, grapes, corn and egg yolk-have been associated with a 32 per cent
lower risk of nuclear cataracts.Lutein and zeaxanthin are both known to accumulate in the lens of the eye and can protect against photodamage (caused by ultraviolet radiation), which predisposes to cataracts.4 Other antioxidants that may also be of benefit are vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and zinc. A 10-year study of more than 2,400 adults aged 49 or
older in Sydney, Australia, found that higher intakes of vitamin C (from either food or supplements) or the combined intake of multiple antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene and zinc) significantly reduced cataractdevelopment.5 Oxidative stress is thought to play role in cataract formation, so it makes sense that antioxidants-which mop up free radicals that
damage proteins and fibre cells in the lens-can be protective.

A study in North India showed that having higher levels of antioxidants in the blood- including vitamin C, alpha-/ beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene-led to asignificantly lower likelihood of having cataracts.6 As well as eating an antioxidant-rich diet (think lots of colourful fruit and veg), WDDTY's resident
Medical Detective Dr Harald Gaier recommends taking Nutricology's OcuDyne II capsules (available from www. vitaminsuk.com), which contain lutein, zeaxanthin, and a host of other antioxidants and useful nutrients like bilberry and vitamin E (see box, opposite page).

Lose weight
Cataracts are another good reason to maintain or achieve a healthy weight. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more (obesity) increased their risk of cataract by at least a third comparedwith those whose BMI was 23 kg/m2 or less (normal weight).7 Exercise Keeping fit by running or walking can help your eyes
stay healthy. Men who ran 64 km (40 miles)/week or more had a 35 per cent lower risk of developing cataracts than men who ran less than 16 km (10 miles)/ week in one study. Based
on the time it took to run a 10-km race, a good measure of cardiorespiratory and overall fitness, the researchers found that the fittest men-those who ran faster than 4.75 m/ sec-had only half the cataract risk of the slowest runners.8

Drink in moderation
People who drink more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day as well as teetotallers are significantly more likely to undergo cataract surgery compared with moderate drinkers, according to onestudy. Those drinking one or two drinks a day had a 43 per cent lower incidence of cataract surgery.9 Stop smoking If you smoke, quit-as smokers are more likely to have cataracts.10 It's thoughtthat the cadmium in cigarettes accumulates in the lens and causes damage. Also, cigarette Send us your most pressing medical questions and we'll put them to our natural doctor:
letters@wddty.co.uk An antioxidant-rich diet(think lots of colourful fruit and veg) may help ward off cataracts

references
1 BMJ, 2010; 340: c2197;
Ophthalmology, 2009; 116:
652-7; Ophthalmology, 2010;
117: 424-30
2 Ophthalmology, 2010; 117:
1251-5
3 Arch Ophthalmol, 2010; 128:
738-49
4 Arch Ophthalmol, 2008; 126:
354-64
5 Am J Clin Nutr, 2008; 87:
1899-905
6 Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2008;
49: 3328-35
7 Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord,
2002; 26: 1588-95
8 Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2009;
50: 95-100
9 Am J Ophthalmol, 2010; 150:
434-40
10 Arch Ophthalmol, 1997; 115:
1296-303
11 Br J Ophthalmol, 1998; 82:
186-8
12 JAMA, 2004; 292: 2750-4
13 Altern Med Rev, 2001; 6: 141-66
14 Ann Nutr Metab, 1999; 43:
286-9
15 Drugs R D, 2002; 3: 87-103

smoke is chock-full of free radicals, so it could be that smoking also depletesyour levels of protective antioxidants.11 Minimize heavymetal exposure Long-term low-level exposure to toxic metals-especially lead-results in their accumulation in the lens. Such a buildup increases the oxidative burden of the lens, so leading to cataracts.12 Consider consulting an experienced practitioner to assess whether you might benefit from a heavy-metal detox (see 'Do you need to detox?', WDDTY November 2014).


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