What are cataracts?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye, either formed of proteins or pigments, that develops slowly and leads to a decrease in vision. It can eventually lead to blindness.
The role of diet
The Oxford part of the enormous EPIC study included over 27,000 people and one of the studied health aspects in this population sample was the relationship between diet and cataracts (Appleby et al., 2011). This study showed a strong relation between cataract risk and dietary patterns. There was a clear gradient with the risk of cataracts being highest in high meat-eaters and decreasing progressively in low meat-eaters, pescaterians, vegetarians and vegans. Vegans had the lowest possible risk of cataracts, 40 per cent lower than meat-eaters. In a further analysis, high intake of cholesterol, saturated fats and protein was significantly linked to cataracts.
Pastor-Valero (2013) studied the prevalence of cataracts in a Spanish population. She discovered a direct relationship – with increasing intake of fruit and vegetables, the risk of cataracts decreased. The conclusion of her study was that high intakes of fruit and vegetables as well as vitamins C and E (the sources of which are plant-based foods) are associated with a significantly lower risk of cataracts. And when Rautiainen et al. (2014) studied the risk of cataracts in a Swedish population, they observed the same patterns as the studies above – the more antioxidant-rich foods in the diet, the lower the risk of cataracts. The major contributors to antioxidant intake were fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and coffee.