Dietary and Lifestyle Management Strategies
By proactively managing identified risk factors for cataracts, one may be able to reduce their onset and/or progression. The following lifestyle management strategies center on avoiding oxidative damage and glycation reactions in the lens (National Eye Institute 2009):
- Quitting smoking, since toxins from tobacco smoke damage proteins such as crystallins (Randerath 1992; Paik 2000)
- Limiting or eliminating exposure to UV radiation from the sun
- Avoiding work-related exposure to X-rays and gamma irradiation
- Limiting or reducing the consumption of alcohol
In addition to these lifestyle changes, numerous studies revealed that food-based antioxidants are useful in the treatment of cataracts (Agte 2010). By increasing the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, such as vegetables and fruits, the human body may be able to more effectively scavenge and eliminate free radicals and reactive oxygen species.
Other dietary considerations include avoiding meats high in cholesterol and saturated fats (eg, fatty cuts of beef, processed meats) and consuming more fish rich in omega-3-fatty acids (eg, salmon). Nuts and seeds, particularly walnuts and flaxseed oil, are additional sources of omega-3 fatty acids (Psota 2006). Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to protect against oxidative damage caused by UV radiation in other tissues, and since the development of cataracts was causally linked to oxidative damage in the lens, this action could represent another mechanism by which they protect against cataract formation or progression (Rhodes 2003; van der Pols 2011).