Cataract Risk Reduced with Healthy Diet

Cataract surgery accounts for nearly 60 percent of vision-related Medicare expenditures, but a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cataracts for women, a new study shows.

Eating healthy, more nutritious meals and cutting out fatty and salty foods can lower a woman’s risk of developing cataracts, according to researchers.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness and are caused when cloudy patches appear in the lens of the eye, causing vision to become blurred or misty. The condition is typically age-related, but a new study found that for women, excess weight and poor dietary habits can also increase the risk of developing cataracts.

The study, published in the Archives of Opthalmology, analyzed the eating habits of 2,000 postmenopausal women who completed a questionnaire to determine their Healthy Eating Index scores. Researchers found that participants who ate the healthiest (those who ranked in the top 20 percent) were found to have a 37 percent lower risk of developing cataracts than those in the bottom of the table. Diet was found to be the biggest risk factor, while smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, short-sightedness, and having brown eyes also increased the risk of having cataracts.

Cataract surgery is responsible for about 60 percent of vision-related Medicare expenditures every year. Researchers say that eating foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol lowers the cataract risk in women, which would help reduce federal Medicare spending. They urge women to regularly eat healthy food like fruits, grains, milk meat, beans and fish and eggs.

“Lifestyle improvements that include healthy diets, smoking cessation, and avoiding obesity may substantively lower the need for and economic burden of cataract surgery,” noted Dr. Julie Mares, lead researcher from the University of Wisconsin.

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