Many people associate eating carrots with excellent night vision as a result of the high levels of vitamin A in carrots and the importance of vitamin A to eyesight. New findings are also attributing vitamin A and other antioxidants (principally vitamins A, C, and E) to decreasing the risk of age-related cataracts in adults older than 49 years. Julie Mares, PhD, from the University of Madison in Wisconsin, authored the article “Food Antioxidants to Prevent Cataract,” published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, and showed an inverse relationship between antioxidant consumption and the risk for cataracts.
“Dietary total antioxidant capacity was inversely associated with the risk of age-related cataract,” wrote Dr. Mares. “Future studies examining all antioxidants in the diet in relation to age-related cataract are needed to confirm or refute our findings.”
Dr. Mares’ primary objective of the study was to investigate the impact of total antioxidant capacity in middle-aged and elderly women’s diets on the incidence of age-related cataract. No other researchers had previously conducted an epidemiological study connecting the two, and it was interesting to know if a simple change in the diet could affect the chance of getting cataracts at an older age.
Questionnaires from over 30,000 women followed for an average of 7.7 years gave an indication of the total antioxidant capacity of their diets, calculated using a database of foods and oxygen radical absorbance capacity. In this group of women, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and coffee contributed largely to antioxidant consumption and led to a reduction in age-related cataracts.
These findings are encouraging to an enrolling clinical trial sponsored by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Proctor Foundation and Aravind Eye Hospital in India. “Antioxidants for Prevention of Cataracts Follow-up Study” was originally conducted between 1997 and 2002. The study investigated thrice weekly antioxidant supplementation in nearly 800 middle-aged women to identify difference in cataract formation relative to women given a placebo. There were no significant differences in cataract formation. Now, the study is returning to see if antioxidants reduce the occurrence of cataract surgery when given thrice weekly for five years. Only those individuals who participated in the previous cataract study are eligible for the present study.