Vitamin C and Eye Health – Cataracts

Lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits are well known to be high in Vitamin C, and the healthy properties of antioxidant Vitamin C are beneficial for everything from heart health, to curbing the risk of Type II diabetes, and more. But, did you know that Vitamin C is also vitally important to your eyes and sight too?

The Study
A British study published in published in Ophthalmology, the official journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2016, found that Vitamin C can be an aid in combating cataracts. As we age, the lens of the eye clouds over, producing the condition we call cataracts, the world’s leading cause of blindness. Over 80 percent of Americans aged 80 and older have cataracts, or have had them corrected with surgery.

At King’s College London, researchers studied data on 1,000 pairs of female twins. They were looking at the consumption of specific nutrients for any clues as to what might affect cataracts, and especially what might prevent or delay the process. Eyes of the test subjects were assessed at about age 60, and then a decade later.

Vitamin C and Cataracts
Vitamin C emerged as a clear factor. The women who reported eating the most Vitamin-C from food began with a 20 percent reduced risk, which grew to about a 33 percent reduced risk of cataracts over the whole 10 year period. Their eye lenses were clearer overall.

The study’s authors cautioned that Vitamin C was not a cure for cataracts, which are the result of the natural aging process. However, it seems that the onset of cataracts can be delayed, and once begun, it can be slowed down, by a Vitamin C rich diet. The study also mentions that the benefit came only from those test subjects who consumed the Vitamin C in foods – not as vitamin supplements.

According to another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, found that Vitamin C supplements, if taken over a long term, can also reduce the risk of early cataracts (before age 60) by over 75 percent.

Antioxidant Protection
Scientists aren’t sure of the exact process where Vitamin C plays a role. The eyeball is actually made up largely of fluids, and one of the compounds in that fluid is an antioxidant similar to Vitamin C. It is oxidation that begins to cloud the lens. The researchers believe that increased amounts of Vitamin C in the body may serve to provide added protection to the eye lens.

Using twins for the study, the data also suggests that diet and other environmental factors are more important than genetics when it comes to cataracts.

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