A Vegetarian Diet Could Decrease Risk for Cataracts

Woman holding a slice of cucumber

According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating a vegetarian diet could decrease the likelihood of cataracts, especially in overweight patients.

What is a Cataract?

A cataract is the clouding of the eye lens. Over time, multiple factors including oxidative stress from UV rays, poor diet and environmental toxins slowly deteriorate the clear lens until it becomes increasingly clouded and blurred.

Cataracts are a common vision concern, especially as people age. In the United States, over 20.5 million people have a cataract.

Plant-Based Nutrition Can Fight Cataracts

Researchers examined data from the Tzu Chi Health Study in Taiwan. Some participants were vegetarian and some were not. A vegetarian diet was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of cataracts compared with a non-vegetarian diet.

Because plant-based foods contain more antioxidants than animal-based foods, eating a vegetarian diet is more successful at reducing oxidative stress that causes cataracts.

The researchers also found many similarities among the vegetarians in the Tzu Chi Health Study. More of the vegetarians tended to be:

  • Female
  • Nondrinkers
  • Nonsmokers
  • Nondiabetic
  • Nonhypertensive
  • More physically active
  • Less educated

The vegetarians also had lower:

  • Body mass index
  • Fasting glucose levels
  • Total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

The study concluded, “It is unclear whether the effect of vegetarian diets on cataracts varies among different ethnic populations. This study aimed to investigate the association between a vegetarian diet and cataract risk in Asians through a prospective cohort study in Taiwan” (Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).

Should We All Become Vegetarians?

You do not need to become a vegetarian to have a healthy lifestyle and prevent cataracts. However, this study underscores how diet can be a significant component in preserving your vision. Vegetables, especially leafy greens, have high levels of antioxidants, which protect eye cells from oxidative stress that damages the eye lens. Fruits, especially dark berries, and nuts also contain high amounts of protective antioxidants.

Decrease Your Cataract Risk

Adding more whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds into your diet is just one way to enhance your eye health. Here are some specific ways you can decrease your risk for cataracts:

  • Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays
  • Apply sunscreen when you are outside
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors
  • Get plenty of physical exercise

Make an Appointment for a Comprehensive Eye Exam

A comprehensive eye exam is essential for optimum eye health. Call today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor. During the exam, your doctor will be able to detect a developing cataract and provide treatment options like cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is among the simplest and most successful eye procedures, and it can restore cataract-related vision loss.

If you are not under the care of a board-certified eye physician, click here. You can access a list of doctors in your area and find an ophthalmologist near you.

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