The study specifically addressed men over the age of 50 and followed these men for 14 years. Nearly 15,000 men were included in the double-blind, randomized study. One half of the study participants took a daily multivitamin in addition to other supplements while the other half took placebos. By the end of the study, participants who took vitamins and supplements experienced a nine percent decrease in risk of developing any type of cataract. The risk of developing nuclear cataracts — those that appear in the center of the lens of the eye — proved to be even lower. This is significant — as nuclear cataracts are the most common type to develop in aging adults.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not currently offer specific recommendations for nutritional supplements related to preventing cataracts. Additionally, the study did not address multivitamin use by women as a means to reduce cataract risk.
Whether or not long-term supplement use makes a significant difference in the risk of developing cataracts, there are several preventative steps you can take to lower your risk for cataracts. If you smoke, quit smoking immediately, as smoking will dramatically increase the risk for cataracts and other eye diseases. Next, make sure that you wear UVA- and UVB- blocking eyeglasses with large lenses and frames to block out as much of these harmful rays as possible, and wear wide brimmed hats when outdoors. Sunglasses should be worn even while driving, as radiation from sunlight can penetrate through car windows, even if your windows are tinted. If you have diabetes or cardiovascular disease, work with your primary care doctor and Silverstein Eye Centers to develop and follow a healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
While the study has promising results for multivitamin supplement use, not all supplements are created equal and very few are regulated by the FDA. Numerous studies, however, have found direct links between diet and eye health, including prevention or slowing of cataract development. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Cancer Institute suggest eating a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, as well as two servings of nuts and seeds. The vast majority of people fail to get the amount of fruits and vegetables needed on a regular basis, and even fewer eat nuts or seeds. These particular foods are nutrient-dense, meaning they carry a wide variety of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that are readily absorbed by the human body.
Before changing your diet or taking a multivitamin and other supplements, consult your Silverstein Eye Centers specialist, primary care doctor, or other specialists. Your doctors will help you determine the best plan for you based on your medical history, current medication use, and any concerns you may have. It is important to work with your medical professional to ensure that you don’t experience unintended cross-reactions or adverse effects when changing your diet, medications, or supplements. This is especially true if you use certain medications, such as older classes of blood thinners.
To learn more about cataracts and how to prevent them, call Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600. We look forward to seeing you soon to schedule an appointment.