Cataracts—an opaque buildup of damaged proteins in the lens of the eye—are the leading cause of visual decline in those over 65. In fact, most people in that age group have at least the beginnings of cataract formation. Many factors contribute to the development of cataracts, but damage by free radicals is believed to play a major role. (See the article on
Cataracts can be removed surgically. Although this has become a relatively quick, safe, easy, and painless surgery, it does not result in completely normal vision. Clearly, preventing cataracts, if possible, would be preferable.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
studies suggest that high intake of
In an enormous, double-blind, placebo-controlled trail involving almost 40,000 female healthcare professionals, use of natural
In addition, a previous double-blind, placebo-controlled study examining the use of beta-carotene or vitamin E alone in male smokers failed to find the supplements effective.
In another long-term study involving over 1,000 older adults, multivitamin and minerals supplements led to a significant decrease in the development of cataracts compared to placebo over a 9-year period. However, these favorable results were tempered by an inexplicable increase in the number of a subtype of cataracts (posterior subcapsular) occurring among those taking the multivitamin/mineral supplements.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Herbs high in antioxidant flavonoids are frequently suggested for preventing cataracts. These include bilberry
12. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E and beta carotene for age-related cataract and vision loss. AREDS Report No. 9. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001;119:1439-1452.
13. Teikari JM, Rautalahti M, Haukka J, et al. Incidence of cataract operations in Finnish male smokers unaffected by alpha tocopherol or beta carotene supplements. J Epidemiol Community Health . 1998;52:468-472.
15. Olmedilla B, Granado F, Blanco I, et al. Lutein, but not alpha-tocopherol, supplementation improves visual function in patients with age-related cataracts: a 2-y double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Nutrition . 2003;19:21-24.
16. Gritz DC, Srinivasan M, Smith SD, et al. The Antioxidants in Prevention of Cataracts (APC) Study: Effects of Antioxidant Supplements on Cataract Progression in South India. Br J Ophthalmol . 2006 Mar 23 [Epub ahead of print].
19. A randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled clinical trial of multivitamin supplementation for age-related lens opacities clinical trial of nutritional supplements and age-related cataract. Report Number 3. Ophthalmology. 2008;115:599-607.e1.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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