One of the leading causes of blindness today is age-related cataract. Surgical removal of the cloudy lens is the only treatment for cataracts that’s currently available. During the procedure, the cloudy lens is replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL).
The exact cause of cataracts is still unknown, but experts believe that the lens becomes cloudy after the oxidative stress damages certain proteins and enzymes in the natural lens of the eye.
While research has yielded mixed results, eating a diet that’s rich in certain vitamins and antioxidants has been observed in several studies to be linked with a reduced risk of cataracts or even their progression.
Oxidative Stress, Diet, & Cataracts
Oxidative stress is that which results if there’s an imbalance between the harmful free radicals roaming the body and the antioxidants responsible for keeping them in check. Free radicals are atoms or molecules that tend to be highly reactive with other molecules and atoms since they have unpaired electrons.
A free radical in the body is typically an oxygen molecule that becomes stable once it takes an electron from another molecule that in turn attempts to take an electron from yet another molecule, and the cycle goes on and on.
Free radicals are quite harmful to the body since they steal electrons from the otherwise healthy cells of tissues and organs. Oxidation is the process of stealing electrons from healthy cells.
Oxidation in the eye affects fats and proteins in the lens to the extent that the lens becomes cloudy and damaged thus creating a cataract. Healthy foods, especially those rich in antioxidants can prevent free radical damage and help slow down the process.
Free radicals that damage the eyes along with other tissues and organs can originate from exposure to chemicals or pollution, eating unhealthy foods, ultraviolet radiation, and smoking. Some free radicals occur from normal daily metabolism, which means that the antioxidants contained in healthy food are also required by people that don’t have such risk factors.
Healthy Foods Vs. Cataract Prevention
People that follow a healthy diet consisting of whole grains, vegetables and colorful fruits consistently may show a reduced risk of cataracts. Phytochemicals and antioxidant vitamins found in vegetables and fruits that can help reduce the risk of cataracts include zeaxanthin, lutein, and Vitamins A, C, and E.
Consuming fish high in omega-3 fatty acids has also been linked to a reduced risk of developing cataracts or at least slowing down their progression.
While all the antioxidants, nutrients, and phytochemicals used in studies and believed to help prevent cataracts can be found in vision supplements and eye vitamins, experts believe that it is possible to obtain these substances from a healthy diet instead of nutritional supplements.
If you are like most Americans, your diet probably lacks the key ingredients since you aren’t eating enough vegetables and fruits. It is thus advisable to consider taking nutritional supplements to ensure that you get all the necessary nutrients for optimal eye health.
Consult your ophthalmologist or optometrist before you embark on a regimen of eye vitamins or even other nutritional supplements. In some instances, taking too much of a particular nutrient or vitamin can be harmful to health.