Cataracts - Research Shows Vitamin C May prevent Cataracts

Research Shows Vitamin C May prevent Cataracts

SAN ANTONIO, TX, June 25, 1999 Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may prevent age-related cataracts, or at least delay their development, according to a noted authority on nutrition and vision.

Cataracts, a clouding of all or part of the lens of the eye, cause blurred or dimmed vision. They can result from injury, exposure to heat or radiation, or inherited factors. But most seem to be part of the aging process. Research conducted in 1994 suggests that 12.9 million Americans (1 out of 7) age 40 and older have cataracts.

"At least ten studies have shown that taking 300 milligrams (mg.) or more of ascorbic acid daily decreases the risk of developing age-related cataracts," says Stuart Richer, O.D., ph.D., chief of optometry at the DVA Medical Center in North Chicago. "For those who wish to prevent cataracts, I would recommend 250 mg. to 500 mg. per day from food sources or supplements. The average American intakes only 110 mg. per day."

Dr. Richer, who spoke on vitamins and antioxidants in eye care at the American Optometric Association's annual meeting, June 23-27, in San Antonio, says this recommendation is based on recent scientific literature as well as on his own laboratory findings and clinical experience. Dr. Richer worked with ascorbic acid while earning his doctorate in physiology and biophysics at Chicago Medical School.

The current RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for Vitamin C is now 60 mg., far too low for prevention, Richer says. But he believes that data in respected scientific journals will result in the Food and Nutrition Board (National Academy of Sciences) approving an increase in the RDA by Fall, 1999.

people 50 and over should take daily Vitamin C supplements or make sure they are getting about 500 mg. of ascorbic acid in the foods they eat. Good sources are fresh fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables.

Increasing their ascorbic acid intake is especially important for smokers, Dr. Richer notes, as they develop cataracts approximately 10 years before non-smokers.

A growing number of optometrists and other eye care providers are incorporating some degree of nutrition counseling into their practices now. "This is not a fad," says Dr. Richer. "It is mainstream science."

Based on this new thinking, mothers should perhaps begin advising their children to eat oranges and spinach to assure healthy eyes.

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