Age-related cataract is a leading cause of blindness in the world today. Currently, the only treatment for cataracts is surgical removal of the cloudy lens, which typically is then replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL) during the cataract surgery. While the exact cause of cataracts is unknown, experts believe that oxidative stress damages certain enzymes and proteins in the eye’s natural lens, which causes the lens to become cloudy. And though some research has produced conflicting results, eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and certain vitamins has been shown in several studies to be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts or their progression.
Diet, Oxidative Stress And Cataracts
Oxidative stress results when there is an imbalance between damaging free radicals roaming the body and the antioxidants that keep them in check. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms (molecules) that are highly reactive with other atoms and molecules because they have unpaired electrons. In the body, a free radical usually is an oxygen molecule that self-stabilizes by taking an electron from another molecule, which in turn tries to take an electron from another molecule, and so on. Free radicals damage the body by stealing electrons from the normally healthy cells of organs and other tissues. This process of stealing electrons from healthy cells is called oxidation. In the eye, oxidation affects proteins and fats in the lens to the extent that the lens becomes damaged and cloudy, creating a cataract. Preventing free radical damage with healthy foods, particularly those containing antioxidants, may help slow down this process. Free radicals that damage our eyes and the rest of the body may originate from eating unhealthy foods, exposure to pollution or chemicals, smoking and ultraviolet radiation. Some free radicals occur from normal daily metabolism, which means even people who don’t have these risk factors need antioxidants found in healthy foods.
Healthy Foods And Cataract Prevention
People who consistently follow a healthy diet that includes colorful fruits, vegetables and whole grains may show a decreased risk of cataracts. Antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables that may reduce the risk of cataracts include vitamins A, C and E, lutein and zeaxanthin. Consumption of fish, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, also has been linked to potentially reduced risk of cataracts or their progression.
Please note: Supplements can in no way replace a good diet and healthy excersise.