New research has found that eating a diet high in colourful fruits and vegetables—foods rich in vitamins and carotenoids, the mainly red, orange, and yellow pigments which give them their bright colour—could lower the risk of age-related cataracts (ARC).
Conducted by researchers from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China and the University of South Australia, Australia, the new meta-analysis looked at 20 studies from around the world which investigated the effect of vitamins and carotenoids in the diet on cataract risk.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that most vitamins and carotenoids were significantly associated with a reduced risk of ARC, including those found in citrus fruits, capsicum, carrots, tomatoes and dark green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale.
In addition, for the carotenoids lutein or zeaxanthin, there appeared to be a dose-response relationship, with the risk of ARC significantly decreasing by 26 per cent for every 10 mg/d increase in intake.
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The study is the first one of its kind to confirm the link between foods high in antioxidants such as vitamins and carotenoids and a lower risk of ARC.
Study co-author Dr. Ming Li commented on the findings saying, “Age-related cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment among the elderly throughout the world, with unoperated cataracts contributing to 35 per cent of all blindness. Although cataract extraction surgery is an effective method to restore vision, it will have cost society more than $5.7 billion by 2020.”
“If we could delay the onset of ARC by 10 years it could halve the number of people requiring surgery,” he added.
However, the team added that improvements would be need to be made to most of the world's diet, with current consumption of antioxidants well below the recommended level to prevent ARC.
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