New study links caffeinated coffee to vision loss

A new study suggests caffeinated coffee drinkers should limit their intake to reduce their chances of developing vision loss or blindness. According to a scientific paper in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, heavy caffeinated coffee consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma, the leading cause of secondary glaucoma worldwide.

The study, The Relation between Caffeine and Coffee Consumption and Exfoliation Glaucoma or Glaucoma Suspect: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts, is the first to examine the link between caffeinated coffee and exfoliation glaucoma in a U.S. –based population.

“Scandinavian populations have the highest frequencies of exfoliation syndrome and glaucoma,” said author, Jae Hee Kang, ScD, of Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. “Because Scandinavian populations also have the highest consumption of caffeinated coffee in the world, and our research group has previously found that greater caffeinated coffee intake was associated with increased risk of primary open-angle glaucoma, we conducted this study to evaluate whether the risk of exfoliation glaucoma or glaucoma suspect may be different by coffee consumption.”

The study was composed of two cohorts: 78,977 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and 41,202 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) who were at least 40 years of age, did not have glaucoma and reported undergoing eye examinations from 1980 (for NHS participants) and 1986 (for HPFS participants) to 2008. The research team used questionnaires to obtain and validate the consumption of beverages containing caffeine and reviewed medical records to determine incident cases of exfoliation glaucoma, which contributes to elevated pressure sufficient enough to damage the optic nerve, or exfoliation glaucoma suspect that have milder or only suspect optic nerve damage.

A meta-analysis of the two cohorts showed that, compared to abstainers, participants who drank three cups or more of caffeinated coffee daily were at an increased risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma or glaucoma suspect. The researchers did not find associations with consumption of other caffeinated products, such as soda, tea, chocolate or decaffeinated coffee. The results also showed that women with a family history of glaucoma were at an increased risk.

Kang, along with his colleagues, report that this study represents a much needed effort to better understand the causes of exfoliation glaucoma, which are largely unknown.

“Because this is the first study to evaluate the association between caffeinated coffee and exfoliation glaucoma in a U.S. population, confirmation of these results in other populations would be needed to lend more credence to the possibility that caffeinated coffee might be a modifiable risk factor for glaucoma,” said Kang. “It may also lead to research into other dietary or lifestyle factors as risk factors.

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5 thoughts on “New study links caffeinated coffee to vision loss”

  1. If you read carefully this study, you will see also: “The highest caffeine consumers were somewhat less likely to have hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and myocardial infarction.”
    For me it is a good example of the controversy about coffee, presented as good for our health by some studies and then as bad by the next ones. It has to do with the methodology of such studies: they are observational and not interventional, meaning that you get no medical evidence, just risk factors. With friends (doctors) we have tried to explain it through the example of decaffeinated coffee, using “handmade pictures” because it’s not easy to describe and a picture is worth a thousand words:
    My recommendation: don’t worry about coffee if you have a moderate consumption and get screened for glaucoma regularly, especially with a family history of this condition.
    Cheers, Mike

  2. Is really caffeinated coffee leads to vision loss? Can you mention the precautions that should follow while taking the caffeinated coffee.

  3. Have they factored in their study reasons for which people drink so much coffee? If you drink so much you probably try to keep awake reading or working on a computer staring at the screen for long hours. Could that contribute to the glaucoma?

  4. For years scientists have been telling us that caffeine enhances vision (usually with reference to carrots). Now they are telling us that they have negative effects? This is another classic example of scientists taking controversial stances to make their findings more appealing to the public.

  5. Scientists have been saying for years that caffeine enhances vision (usually giving the example of a carrot). Now they are saying it has negative effects? This is another example of the u-turns that scientists make just to make their findings seem more appealing.

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