Recent clinical research is providing strong evidence that cataracts may be prevented by taking supplements. How to protect against cataracts is an important concern as we live longer than ever before.
What are Cataracts
Cataracts are the world's leading cause of blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 20 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from cataracts. Cataract extraction is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the U.S.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens, which causes one's vision to become blurry. While aging is the primary cause of cataracts, they may also result from eye injury, health conditions such as diabetes, prolonged exposure to UV rays, smoking and family history.
It is a popularly held belief that cataracts, like gray hair, are an inevitable part of the aging process. However, a number of studies show that supplements may offer a strong defense against cataracts.
Antioxidant Supplements: How to Protect Against Cataracts Naturally
The supplement intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals has been found to hold the most promise in the prevention or delay of cataracts. These include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Carotenoids (Lutein, Zeaxanthin and beta carotene)
- Bilberry herbal supplements
- Zinc and Selenium
These supplements are potent antioxidants that help prevent the formation and progression of cataracts by protecting the eye against free radical damage. They neutralize the destructive activity of free radicals, helping to prevent the cellular and tissue damage that causes cataracts.
- This water-soluble antioxidant is particularly effective in combating the free radical formation caused by cigarette smoking and pollution. A Tufts University clinical study has shown that the long-term intake of Vitamin C will significantly lower the risk of cataract formation. It found that this risk can be reduced by up to 77 percent in women.
- This is one of the most efficient of all anti-oxidants, and a strong defender against oxidative damage to the eye lens. A longitudinal clinical study of cataracts showed that intake of vitamin E supplement slowed the progression of nuclear cataracts. A five year follow-up study found a lower risk of cataract formation among people taking supplements containing vitamins C and E.
- Zinc is an essential mineral for supporting the healthy functioning of the eye, and protecting against the natural deterioration of the eye's retina with age. High intake of zinc tends to deplete the body's supply of copper. As such, it is recommended that it must be taken with a copper supplement. For every 10 milligrams of zinc, you should take one milligram of copper. The recommended daily dosage for zinc is between 15 and 50 mgs of zinc.
- This mineral supplement works to prevent cataracts by supporting the production of the compound glutathione peroxide. This is an antioxidant enzyme that is found in the eye's lens, and is essential in preventing cataracts. Insufficient amounts of this naturally occurring compound tends to increase the severity of cataracts. Selenium supplements are typically recommended in a multivitamin/mineral supplement rather than individually. No more than 50 to 200 micrograms a day should be taken.
Carotenoids (Lutein, Zeaxanthin and beta carotene)
- A 1995 Tufts University study found that two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in the eye's tissue where they help prevent free radical oxidation of the lens protein, which causes cataracts. Researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health found that beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A, among women lowered the need for cataract surgery by 39 percent.
Bilberry Herbal Supplements
- This herbal supplement will often be found in the "eye supplement" section of health food stores or drugstores. It is rich in carotenoids and pigments such as anthocyanins that are believed to improve night vision.
- If you suffer from cataracts, you must seek medical attention from a doctor before you take any supplements.
- There have been reports of diarrhea among people taking daily doses of more than 1,200 milligrams of vitamin C.
- You must not take vitamin E supplements if you are on anti-coagulant drugs.
- Medical supervision is recommended for taking Zinc and selenium supplements for cataracts.