Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is abundant in vegetables and fruits. This water-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including bones, skin and blood vessels, especially vessels in the eyes.
Previous studies found that increased vitamin C intake slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness. This disease affects 5 percent of Americans 65 or older and destroys the sharp, central vision needed to see objects clearly for activities like reading and driving.
A diet rich in vitamin C could help prevent more than just macular degeneration. Researchers in the United Kingdom recently discovered more about vitamin C’s association with nuclear cataract development. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye due to age and oxidative damage, and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world. The study, “Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract,” was published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
The research team viewed data from the TwinsUK database which included 12,000 identical and fraternal twins between the ages of 16 and 100. The team had access to annual or biannual surveys that provided specific clinical, physiological, behavioral and lifestyle information on the sets of twins. After isolating a sample of twins that met their analysis criteria, the researchers examined baseline nuclear cataract data, food frequency questionnaires that tracked patient intake of vitamin C and other macronutrients, and digital imaging that tracked the opacity of the eyes’ lenses around age 60.
The researchers found that dietary vitamin C protected against nuclear cataracts and delayed the progression of cataracts in the sample study. In fact, dietary intake of vitamin C played a more significant role in nuclear cataract formation over a 10-year period than genetic factors did.
Dr. Christopher Hammond, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at King’s College London and senior author of the study, stated, “The most important finding was that vitamin C intake from food seemed to protect against cataract progression. While we cannot totally avoid developing cataracts, we may be able to delay their onset and keep them from worsening significantly by eating a diet rich in vitamin C” (Source: Cataract News Today).
Cataracts threaten the sight of millions of individuals worldwide. Even in the United States, cataracts affect one in six Americans by the age of 40 and half of all Americans by the age of 70. So just increase your daily intake of vitamin C — what a simple, inexpensive way to protect your eyes from cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts! Your Sight Matters has many vitamin C-rich recipes that will help nourish your vision and prevent early vision loss. How about starting your day with a Kiwi Mango Smoothie for an extra dose of vitamin C and vitamin A? Select from our library of tasty, eye-healthy recipes, and check back often for new entrees, desserts and snacks.