Eating Greens Can Protect Against Cataracts
Eating your greens can help prevent cataracts, laboratory evidence has confirmed for the first time. Anti-oxidants in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale have been found to protect eye cells from exposure to ultraviolet light - a leading cause of cataracts.
Researchers in the US found that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin were almost 10 times more powerful than vitamin E in protecting the cells from UV-induced damage.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant thought to reduce the onset of eye diseases.
Manufacturers of vitamins often add lutein and zeaxanthin to their products. But until now there has been no biochemical evidence to support the claim that they help protect the eyes, according to researcher Joshua Bomser, from Ohio State University.
Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to cloud over and can lead to serious problems with vision. It is estimated that around 71% of over-85s have a cataract bad enough to affect their sight, with women more commonly affected than men.
In the latest study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, the researchers treated human eye lens cells with different concentrations of lutein, zeaxanthin or vitamin E. Along with a batch of untreated cells; these were exposed to doses of ultraviolet beta radiation for 10 seconds. UVB radiation is also thought to be the main environmental culprit in causing skin cancer as well as cataracts.
Prof Bomser said: "The lens is equipped with antioxidant defense mechanisms designed to guard against the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation and oxidative stress. "In addition to protective enzymes and compounds like vitamins C and E, we think that low concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye lens help shield the eye from the harmful effects of UVB radiation."
Anita Lightstone, the RNIB's head of eye health, said: "The Royal National Institute of the Blind welcome this latest research because we have recommended for some time that eating more leafy green vegetables is important for maintaining good eye health. "Research also shows that eating a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins can help prevent age-related macular degeneration, the biggest cause of blindness in the UK."