Can Oxidative Damage Cause Macular Degeneration and Cataracts?

vegetables and fruits containing antioxidantsAntioxidants have been studied as a way of preventing eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Oxidative damage (free radical damage) may be a contributing cause of these diseases. People concerned about developing these problems may consider taking both dietary and supplemental antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, and supplements like lutein, zeaxanthin, glutathione, and CoQ10.

A common disease in people over age 50, cataracts is a clouding of the lens of the eye. It may be caused by oxidative damage to proteins in the lens from UV light exposure. The typical modern treatment is replacement with an artificial lens. This new lens may be able to correct vision at the same time. Several large studies found that people who ate plenty of vegetables and fruits had less cataracts and less severe cataracts1. Also, people with diets high in spinach and broccoli had fewer cataract surgeries.2

Macular degeneration is the #1 cause of blindness in American seniors aged 65 and up. Two carotenoids, zeaxanthin and lutein, are found inside the retina. It appears that they may help prevent damage caused by free radicals or by light. Two studies found that people who ate vegetables high in these carotenoids had much lower chance of developing ARMD3 4. Also, a large study found that eating three or more servings of fruit per day had a 36% less chance of getting ARMD in the next 12-18 years than light eaters of fruit (less than 1.5 servings)5.

Cleaning up the diet, and eating fruits and vegetables instead of “junk food” could make a huge difference to one’s health. These studies confirm what is just common sense: protect the body from free radical with antioxidants, starting with food sources and adding supplements if needed.

See more research on cataracts and research on macular degeneration

Additional source: Linus Pauling Institute

  1. Christen WG, Liu S, Schaumberg DA, Buring JE. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cataract in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(6):1417-1422
  2. Brown L, Rimm EB, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of carotenoid intake and risk of cataract extraction in US men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(4):517-524.
  3. Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA. 1994;272(18):1413-1420.
  4. Snellen EL, Verbeek AL, Van Den Hoogen GW, Cruysberg JR, Hoyng CB. Neovascular age-related macular degeneration and its relationship to antioxidant intake. Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2002;80(4):368-371
  5. Cho E, Seddon JM, Rosner B, Willett WC, Hankinson SE. Prospective study of intake of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and carotenoids and risk of age-related maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol. 2004;122(6):883-892