Vitamin C and carotenoids reduce cataract risk in women

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Vitamin C appears to decrease the risk of cortical cataracts in women under 60 years of age. Additionally, carotenoids reduce the risk of posterior subcapsular cataracts in women who have never smoked, researchers report in the March issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dr. Allen Taylor, from Tufts University, Boston, and colleagues collected data on 492 nondiabetic women 53 to 73 years of age, without previously diagnosed cataracts, who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Among the 984 eyes examined, 34.1% had cortical opacities and 12.9% had posterior subcapsular cataract opacities.

Women under 60 years of age with daily vitamin C intakes of 362 mg or more had a 57% lower odds ratio of developing cortical cataracts compared with women with daily vitamin C intakes of less than 140 mg, the researchers found.

Women who took vitamin C supplements for 10 years or more reduced their risk for developing cortical cataracts by 60%, compared with women who did not take vitamin C supplements, Dr. Taylor's team notes.

In women who had never smoked, the prevalence of posterior subcapsular cataracts was related with total carotenoid intake (p = 0.02). Specifically, "the incidence of posterior subcapsulary cataracts was considerably lower in women who had never smoked and who had high intakes of folate and carotenoids," the researchers comment in a press release.

Dr. Taylor and colleagues conclude that "these data add more weight to the accumulating evidence that antioxidant nutrients can be exploited to alter the rates of development of these major (but less studied) forms of age-related opacities and provide indirect evidence that smoking attenuates the putative benefits of antioxidants."

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