Preventing Cataracts through healthy nutrition - Top 10 vitamins that can help you prevent cataracts
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The treatment of cataracts often focuses on surgery—removing the cataract lens and replacing it with a clear plastic lens. But what about preventing cataracts before they get to the point where vision is impaired? Nutrition can’t reverse the changes once they occur, but as with all age-related vision conditions, the onset of cataracts can be delayed by eating a nutrient-rich diet throughout your life. The eye naturally bathes the lens in fluids that contain the highest nutrient concentration of anywhere in our bodies—it does so to protect the lens and prevent age-related cataract changes. We can help our body by ensuring the nutrients in the fluids are available for our eye to use by eating foods that contain them. Below are some of the Vitamins that can help in fighting against cataracts.
The evidence from dozens of clinical trials—and animal model studies—suggests that vitamin C is beneficial in conjunction with other nutrients in protecting the lens from damage that leads to cataract formation. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can protect the cells throughout the eye from oxidative damage; can protect the cells in the retina from light damage by helping form melanin pigment that absorbs excess light that could damage the retina and helps build collagen to strengthen capillaries and the optic nerve.
Though Vitamin C is beneficial against cataracts, it should nevertheless be consumed in moderation. As per US Institute of Medicine’s recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C, 100 mg per day with an upper limit of intake not to exceed 2,000 mg per day is sufficient.
Vitamin A and Carotenoids
There are indeed quite a few studies on the role of Vitamin A and Carotenoids in the treatment of cataracts. One study of over fifty thousand women followed over eight years showed moderate decreased risks of cataracts associated with increased dietary intake of vitamin A (primarily from animal sources and fortified foods) and carotenoids (primarily from fruits and vegetables). Some foods rich in Vitamin A include-
- Fruits such as mangoes, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruits and tomatoes.
- Vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens, baked sweet potato and dark green vegetables.
Intake of B-complex vitamins, notably B1, B2, B3, and B6, has been one of the crucial points of study in prevention of cataracts. Vitamin B1 has been proven to be effective in case of glaucoma whereas Vitamin B9, also called as folate, is important for our genes. However, does intake of B-Complex vitamins help in preventing cataracts?
Vitamin B2—also known as riboflavin—has many functions, including assisting enzymes in forming packets of energy within cells, supporting the production of building blocks of proteins and sustaining the production of neural signalling molecules. It promotes antioxidant enzymes and acts with folate as an indirect anti-oxidant and is essential for the formation of the enzyme that creates the powerful antioxidant glutathione. It is in this role with glutathione that vitamin B2 has been believed for nearly a century to prevent cataracts. It is found in feta cheese, yogurt, eggs, and mushrooms. Similarly, Vitamin B5 helps the body create energy and make lipids (specialized fats) that are essential for neural tissue in the retina and optic nerve and plays a role in the production of hormones and neural signalling molecules. Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, is vital for energy production and is required for the function of several dozen enzymes. It is believed to lower cholesterol, protect neural cells from injury, particularly in the retina and optic nerve, which are affected by retinal conditions and glaucoma and may even decrease blood sugars in diabetes.
Other B-Complex Vitamins have also been useful in boosting the immune system, creation of neural signalling molecules and protecting neural cells in the retina and optic nerve from injury.
It is known that vitamin D deficiency causes depression, weakness, and sleepiness. Vitamin D also supports the immune defence system and is believed to decrease high blood pressure. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and neurodegenerative processes such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin D is actually not a true vitamin—it is a steroid hormone, known as calciferol. The existing research does not give us a clear indication of vitamin D’s benefits for preventing cataracts or macular degeneration. These vitamins are all needed for the balanced approach. Go for your vitamin D-rich foods, such as dairy and fish, particularly herring, flounder, and salmon. But be sure to add fruits and vegetables that will give you the B-complex vitamins and all the other nutrients the body needs for its complex and intricate molecular, cellular and physiological activities.
We can help our bodies protect the lens with good nutrition. Some nutrients that have been discussed above include-
- Vitamin C—a powerful antioxidant that protects the lens.
- Vitamin B2—assists in forming energy packets and promotes antioxidant enzymes but also acts as a photosensitizer to create electrons.
- Vitamin B3—assists with energy production and protects neural cells from injury.
- Vitamin B6—assists with many enzymes including those involved in energy production.
- Vitamin D—actually a steroid hormone that turns on genes within our cells.
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