Women who eat healthier have a lower chance of developing nuclear cataracts, according to new results from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.* Nuclear cataracts are the most common type of cataract for which surgery is performed in the United States.
Julie Mares, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and colleagues followed nearly 2,000 women aged 55 to 86 and compared their answers on a food questionnaire to their development of nuclear cataracts. Higher food scores went to those participants who ate more grains, vegetables, fruit, milk, meat, beans, fish, and eggs. Lower scores were given to those who consumed more total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
The researchers found that being above the 20th percentile for diet scores that reflect adherence to the US dietary guidelines at the time of the study (1995), had a 37% lower risk for nuclear cataracts after adjusting for other nondietary risk factors.
“In conclusion, this study adds to the body of literature suggesting that healthy diets are associated with lower risk for cataract,” the authors concluded. “Diet was the strongest risk factor related to reduced risk of nuclear cataract in this sample of postmenopausal women. Smoking and obesity were also contributors. Lifestyle improvements that include healthy diets, smoking cessation, and avoiding obesity may substantively lower the need for an economic burden of cataract surgery in aging American women.”
—Marc Ellman, MD