One of our core principles of clinical care at Envision Optical is to take a holistic approach to vision and eye health where evidence exists it is of benefit to our patients. Over the last few years I have become increasingly interested in the effects of nutrition on vision and eye health. In 2010, I joined the Ocular Nutrition Society, a USA based society of optometrists and ophthalmologists, who are at the forefront of incorporating the latest scientific research on nutrition into healthy eyes advice. The president of the Ocular Nutrition Society is Jeff Anshell, a Californian optometrist, and below is a recent article he wrote on cataract prevention. It is so succinct and to the point, I thought I’d share it with you.
“If everyone lived long enough, they’d get a cataract.” That was the first sentence of my course in cataracts in optometry school. That sounds pretty inevitable to me. But if the onset of cataracts could be delayed by 10 years, researchers estimate that half the surgical procedures to remove cloudy cataracts could be averted.
Cataract care costs billions of dollars a year, and cataracts are a cause of hip fractures, auto accidents and debilitation. Efforts to prevent cataracts are worthwhile, because the eye is a barometer of health and longevity. According to one study, age-related cataracts are a marker for increased mortality, up to a 390% increase in the death rate. Another recent study found that cataract surgery places patients at almost twice the risk of developing late-stage age-related macular degeneration.
For decades, cataract researchers have been calling on properly designed antioxidant studies for cataract prevention. Researchers could move in a more timely way to evaluate the antioxidant theory of cataract prevention. Cataract prevention studies with higher doses of ascorbic acid have been proposed for more than a decade.
Determining the amount of supplemental vitamin C to prevent cataracts has been problematic, but newly revealed information about the half-life decay rate for vitamin C in the human body suggests repeated daily consumption of supplemental vitamin C to maintain optimal blood and aqueous concentrations. The habitual intake of an optimal dose of vitamin C – at least 2,500 mg in five divided doses – to raise aqueous humor concentration under the most biologically stressful conditions should be effective.
Oral dosing of vitamin C spread throughout the day is likely to minimize the occurrence of diarrhea, an undesirable side effect that upper dosage limits on vitamin C supplements attempt to prevent. With the world population expected to grow from 6 to 8 billion by the year 2020, and the number of adults older than 60 years anticipated to expand from 400 to 800 million over the same time period, the number of people with cataracts will rise dramatically. Already there is such a backlog in the number of people who need cataract surgery in the world – up to 50 million by some estimates – that there is no foreseeable way to treat all cases of cataracts with lens implants. Yet there is no prevention program for cataracts in practice, let alone an inexpensive solution.
Little has been learned about cataract prevention beyond what John R. Bellows, MD, of Chicago once explained in the Archives of Ophthalmology. Bellows found that humans with clear lenses (no cataracts) had about twice the blood levels of a substance called cevitamic acid compared to adults with cataracts. What is cevitamic acid? Of course – it is vitamin C. In early experiments it was already known that adults with cataracts need to be given more orange juice to raise vitamin C levels than adults without cataracts.
Bellows also described the onset of cataracts in guinea pigs that were not given sufficient amounts of vitamin C in their diet. Bellows noted that “frank cases of scurvy are relatively rare in adults, but subnutrition is very common.” He quoted other authorities who indicated a subclinical form of scurvy “is not uncommon.”
The relationship between vitamin C levels and cataracts was clearly explained by Bellows in 1936. Bellows’ report, along with others, has been ignored by modern medicine and speaks of an avoidance to put into practice any significant preventive measures.”
Envision Optical’s Andrew Bowden sums up;
Jeff’ Anshell’s commentary clearly indicates Vitamin C intake of at least 2500mg daily, combined with wearing high quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV damage will at the very least significantly delay the onset of cataracts. So break out the orange juice, kiwi fruit or a high quality vitamin C powder from your local health food store and start delaying those cataracts!