The incidence of cataracts is increasing in the U.S. and there is some concern about whether Medicare can continue to cover surgery for cataract removal. This study was done to evaluate the relationships between nuclear cataracts, lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet, serum and macula in a study of women aged 50 to 79. In this study the cataracts were diagnosed by slit lamp photography.
Cataracts are associated with free radical accumulation, and diets high in vitamin C and vitamin E are associated with a reduced risk of nuclear cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin scavenge free radicals and reduce lipid peroxidation in lab tests. Other studies have associated lutein and zeaxanthin with decreased incidence of nuclear cataracts. These carotenoids are also found in the macula.
The women studied completed extensive diet questionnaires, blood samples were studied for lutein and zeaxanthin, and slit-lamp studies were done. Foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin include cooked spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, collards, dark green lettuces, broccoli, other leafy greens, fruits and many vegetables.
CONCLUSION: This study shows that women with the highest intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin had an incidence of nuclear cataracts 32% lower than women with the lowest intakes of these carotenoids. Lutein and zeaxanthin seem to be protective against nuclear cataracts.
High intakes of dietary fiber, fruits, vegetables, many micronutrients, carotenoids, alcohol and high dose antioxidant supplements were also seen in the high lutein group and could play a part in reduced cataract risk.
NOTE: A nuclear cataract is the most common cataract, which form in the center of the lens of the eye.
Read about corn products as sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
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