Prevent Cataracts By Increasing Vitamin C

If cataracts are a concern of yours, consider increasing your intake of vitamin C.  A recent 2016 study published in the journal Ophthalmology suggests that the vitamin also known as ascorbic acid and known to prevent scurvy, may also have a function of cutting the risk and progression of cataract development.

What are cataracts

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40 and is the main cause of blindness in the world.  It causes a clouding of the eye’s lens leading to blurred vision making it look like you’re looking through a fogged up window.  In the United States if affects about 29.2% of the population.

Study showing vitamin C’s role in cataracts

Researchers from King’s College London in the United Kingdom, designed a prospective cohort study on exploring the effect of dietary micronutrients on the progression of cataracts.  Over a period of approximately 10 years, they collected data from 1,000 pairs of female twins from the UK by having them complete a food frequency questionnaire tracking their intake of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and the minerals copper, manganese, and zinc. 

The conclusions from the study showed 35% of the variation in progression of cataract development was due to genetic factors. The other 65% was accounted for through environmental factors and in particular, the women whose diet was rich in foods containing vitamin C.  The 10-year assessment revealed a 33% lower risk of cataract progression if the diet was high in vitamin C.

Vitamin C’s power in reducing the progression of cataracts appears to be attributed to its antioxidant capabilities. Antioxidants are substances that remove potentially damaging oxidizing agents in the body such as free radicals.  If free radicals are left unchallenged, they can cause a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases.  The human body naturally produces free radicals and antioxidants help counteract their damaging effects. 

To help prevent oxidation that can cloud the lens of the eye, the fluid inside the eye is abundant in vitamin C.  The connection of consuming foods rich in vitamin C appearing to help slow and or prevent cataracts, has led to the speculation that high vitamin C intake may further boost the levels of it in the fluid around the lens providing even more protection.

Best food sources of vitamin C

The very best sources of vitamin C will be found in fruits and vegetables.  It may be added to some grain products such as breakfast cereals.  Prolonged storage and cooking including microwaving and steaming reduce vitamin C content in foods as it is a water-soluble vitamin andis easily destroyed by heat.  Fortunately, many of us consume raw foods rich in vitamin C helping us get the most of it from a natural source.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women each day.  Individuals who smoke will require 35 mg/day more than nonsmokers as they don’t absorb it as well. 

Here are rich sources of this nutrient:

·         Red bell peppers, ½ cup    -    95 mg

·         Orange juice, ¾ cup          -    93 mg

·         Orange, 1 medium            -    70 mg

·         Grapefruit juice, ¾ cup     -    70 mg

·         Kiwifruit, 1 medium         -     64 mg

·         Green pepper, ½ cup         -    60 mg

·         Broccoli, ½ cup                 -    51 mg

·         Papaya, ½ cup                   -     43 mg

·         Strawberries, ½ cup           -    42 mg

·         Tomato juice, ¾ cup         -     33 mg

·         Cantaloupe, ½ cup            -     29 mg

·         Cabbage, ½ cup                -     28 mg

·         Mango, ½ cup                   -     23 mg

·         Potato, baked, 1 medium-     17 mg

·         Raspberries, ½ cup           -      16 mg

·         Spinach, ½ cup                  -     9mg

Final thoughts

Vitamin C is a multitasker as a vitamin.  Now it possibly looks like one more function can be added to its reputation – protecting against cataract development and progression.  Some of us may not be able to completely avoid developing cataracts but if we can delay the onset andadvancement of it by eating more vitamin C rich foods, why not use that to our advantage.  At the very least, it will enhance our immune systemkeeping us healthier in the long run.

It should be noted that the 2016 study only focused on foods rich in vitamin C and not dietary supplements of it.