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Link Nutrition, Eye HealthBy Rosalie Marion
August 1, 2003
Scientists funded by the
Agricultural Research Service in Boston,
Mass., have found evidence suggesting that protective, antioxidant-rich
nutrition--fruits, vegetables and certain grains--could be the least costly and
most practical means to delay cataract formation.
About half of those aged 75 and older in the United States will experience
some cloudiness in the eye lens, called cataract, which obstructs the passage
of light and impairs vision. Over time, oxidative damage to proteins and other
components inside the lens causes it to gradually change from transparent to
Scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
(HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston
have studied lens cells that make proteins called crystallins. These proteins
act like fiber optics, allowing light to pass through the lens and onto the
retina over a lifetime without repair, according to Allen Taylor, chief of the
for Nutrition and Vision Research.
Inside the lens are antioxidants--which help maintain healthy cells and
tissues in the eye and other organs--in the form of vitamins C and E and the
phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. In one study underlying ongoing research,
the scientists looked at 478 women, aged 53 to 73, who were neither previously
diagnosed with cataracts nor diabetic. They conducted eye exams to study the
relationship between newly diagnosed cataracts and nutrient intake.
Food intake was assessed from questionnaires completed over 13 to 15 years.
Women with the highest intakes of vitamins C and E, riboflavin, folate, beta
carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin had a lower prevalence of cloudiness in certain
lens areas than did those with the lowest intakes of those nutrients.
In terms of aggregate or total annual cost, cataract surgery is the largest
out-patient-surgery expense paid for by the Medicare program. Worldwide, the
costs associated with cataract care, including disability and surgery, are now
an estimated $6 billion annually.
Read more on this work in the
Agricultural Research magazine.
The HNRCA is funded by the Agricultural Research Service, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
scientific research agency.
U.S. Department of Agriculture