Women can reduce their risk of early-onset cataracts by making sure they get plenty of vitamin C, new research from Tufts University in Boston suggests.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and are common among people aged 75 and older. Good nutrition appears to help protect against cataracts, but there is little research on the link between two particular types of cataract and nutrition. In cortical cataracts, cloudiness affects the central external lens of the eye, while posterior subcapsular cataracts are the most disabling visually.
The Boston researchers collected data on 492 women aged 53 to 73.
Women under 60 years with daily vitamin C intakes of 362 milligrams (mg) or more had a 57% lower risk of developing cortical cataracts than their peers who consumed less than 140 mg of the vitamin a day.
Women who took vitamin C supplements for 10 years or more reduced their risk of developing cortical cataracts by 60%, compared with women who did not take vitamin C supplements.
In women who had never smoked, those who consumed more folate and carotenoids were considerably less likely to have posterior subcapsular cataracts. Carotenoids are red, yellow and orange pigments found in fruits and vegetables, which the body converts to vitamin A.
These findings add more weight to the accumulating evidence that antioxidant nutrients can alter the rates of development of age-related cataracts.
The findings also indirectly suggest that antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C can blunt smoking's ill effects.
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