Preventing Cataracts with Diet

Preventing Cataracts with Diet
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Risk of developing cataracts was compared in meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.

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The leading cause of blindness and vision loss is cataracts, one of the most common surgeries performed today. We know smoking can increase risk; long-term radiation exposure—what about diet? A study of more than 25,000 people with a wide range of diets was recently published. They compared what they called “high” meat-eaters to “moderate” meat-eaters to “low” meat-eaters, versus those who “ate fish but no other meat,” versus those eating “vegetarian,” versus those eating “vegan.”

The researchers went out of their way to choose health-conscious subjects, so they could factor out smoking, exercise, and other non-diet variables. And so the so-called “high” meat-consuming group—100 grams a day. That’s like one serving in one meal a day. In the U.S., we average about 330 grams a day. So it’s like reverse Starbucks labeling. You know how their small is a “tall”? Well, here, their “high” meat group is really quite low by American standards. Yet they still found a highly significant trend. Who do you think had the lowest risk of cataracts?

Compared with the “high” meat group, cutting back on meat cuts down your risk about 15%. Just do fish, you’re down 21%. No fish, 30% drop in risk. And then, no eggs and dairy for the full 40% drop in risk. Overall, compared with meat-eaters who consumed 100 grams of meat and meat products a day, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans had approximately 20%, 30%, and 40% lower risk of cataracts, respectively.

It’s like with the diabetes risk; there appears to be a stepwise reduction, “a progressive decrease in risk in parallel with [the decrease in] the amount of meat and other animal products in the diet.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Rakesh Ahuja, MD and the U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons, and the National Eye Institute.

The leading cause of blindness and vision loss is cataracts, one of the most common surgeries performed today. We know smoking can increase risk; long-term radiation exposure—what about diet? A study of more than 25,000 people with a wide range of diets was recently published. They compared what they called “high” meat-eaters to “moderate” meat-eaters to “low” meat-eaters, versus those who “ate fish but no other meat,” versus those eating “vegetarian,” versus those eating “vegan.”

The researchers went out of their way to choose health-conscious subjects, so they could factor out smoking, exercise, and other non-diet variables. And so the so-called “high” meat-consuming group—100 grams a day. That’s like one serving in one meal a day. In the U.S., we average about 330 grams a day. So it’s like reverse Starbucks labeling. You know how their small is a “tall”? Well, here, their “high” meat group is really quite low by American standards. Yet they still found a highly significant trend. Who do you think had the lowest risk of cataracts?

Compared with the “high” meat group, cutting back on meat cuts down your risk about 15%. Just do fish, you’re down 21%. No fish, 30% drop in risk. And then, no eggs and dairy for the full 40% drop in risk. Overall, compared with meat-eaters who consumed 100 grams of meat and meat products a day, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans had approximately 20%, 30%, and 40% lower risk of cataracts, respectively.

It’s like with the diabetes risk; there appears to be a stepwise reduction, “a progressive decrease in risk in parallel with [the decrease in] the amount of meat and other animal products in the diet.”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Rakesh Ahuja, MD and the U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons, and the National Eye Institute.

Doctor's Note

The concentration of advanced glycation end-products in animal-based foods may help explain this finding; see my video Glycotoxins. In Prevent Glaucoma and See 27 Miles Farther, I covered the second leading cause of blindness—glaucoma, and I previously covered two other leading causes of vision loss in Preventing Macular Degeneration with Diet, where I also touched on diabetic retinopathy. Check out my other videos on plant-based diets.

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Preserving Vision Through DietPlant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome; and Plant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

46 responses to “Preventing Cataracts with Diet

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  1. The concentration of advanced glycation end-products in animal-based foods may help explain this finding; see my video Glycotoxins. In Prevent Glaucoma and See 27 Miles Farther I covered the second leading cause of blindness, glaucoma, and the day before that I covered two other leading causes of vision loss in Preventing Macular Degeneration with Diet, where I also touch on diabetic retinopathy. I have 105 other videos on plant-based diets and hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects—I hope you’ll check them out.




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    1. I would love to see the study that shows a plant based diet reversing cataracts.  Pubmed doesn’t show any.  Just hope for the future I guess.

      Also, Dr. Greger, just curious as to how many site hits this website gets per day?  Because like I said before I send at least 5 patients per day to your site so you have got to be at least at 500/day, right?  That is assuming that half I send don’t visit the site (or don’t care, and/or Love their Grilled Carcasses to much =):-}




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        1. Grandpa Wally I am using Organic Castor oil for my cataracts it is USDA organic. Is this okay or should I use USP grade? Thank you for your response. Jim S




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      1. Let me know. 5 yrs vegan, got the cataract diagnosis this morning. 2 diopters gone in the right eye. IOL in 5 years?




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      1. There is no magic pill, and it’s very likely there won’t be one in our lifetime.
        The problem with vitamins is that companies are trying to find one, or a few nutrients that provide our bodies with health and longevity. What keeps people healthy in real life however, is eating Vegetables, fruits, beans and grains because they have so many important nutrients that work together and help cells protect each other from free radical damage.
        http://nutritionfacts.org/video/lutein-lycopene-and-selenium-pills/http://nutritionfacts.org/video/produce-not-pills-to-increase-physical-attractiveness/
        In addition, there are many things in meat and dairy that increase the risk for many diseases. No vitamin can extract unwanted hormones, saturated fat, viruses/bacteria, etc.http://nutritionfacts.org/video/food-is-a-package-deal-3/




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      2. Dr Greger does have this video – http://nutritionfacts.org/video/vitamin-supplements-worth-taking/

        In a nutshell, Vitamin D and B-12 are key.  It’s also generally accepted taking a DHA supplement is wise (I use Udo’s Oil DHA blend in smoothies, or Opti3 Omega for other days.)  Depending on the quality of your diet, you may want to look out for your iron, zinc, calcium and iodine.

        Based on Dr Greger’s recommendation, I am also reading the excellent ‘Vegan For Life’ (http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Life-Everything-Healthy-Plant-Based/dp/0738214930) which I’ve found a great resource, furthering my understanding.




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      3.  I know the supplement and pharmaceutical industry have already and will be coming up with “tailored” supplements targeting specific conditions. For eye diseases see… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-macular-degeneration-with-diet/ for a discussion of specific eye conditions. However, unless I see clear cut long term proper studies I won’t be able to recommend isolated supplements to patients however see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/antioxidant-vitamin-supplements/ plus the over 70 videos that Dr. Greger has done on supplements. The bulk of data suggest that “isolated” nutrients are not beneficial and are in fact harmful for Vitamins A, E and antioxidant beta carotene as the studies point out. The best approach to avoiding chronic disease in general is a variety of whole plant based foods with Vitamin B12 supplement. So patients who either have a condition or want to avoid a condition can emphasize the types of food supported by the studies. It is always better to avoid a condition (primary prevention) then attempt to reverse and cure (secondary prevention). Of course the science keeps changing and reminding us of how little we understand.  A good example is AGE’s see the two videos showing how we can miss opportunities with assumptions based on animal studies see the two videos http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/advanced-glycation-end-products/ and http://nutritionfacts.org/video/avoiding-a-sugary-grave/. Good luck.




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    2. After following the Budwig Protocol (3 tblspns flaxseed oil blended with 6 tblspns organic low fat cottage cheese, with 1 tblspn freshly ground flaxseeds and fruit every morning) for about two years, my ophthamalogist took me off my glaucoma eye drop prescription saying “things look well stabilized, so let’s try without the medicine.” I had been taking prescriptive eye drops for glaucoma for more than 20 years, but now I don’t need medicine any longer. I take flaxseed oil, cottage cheese, and ground flaxseeds every day.




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  2. Just finished a biography about Nathan Pritikin (with mention in the book of course of one Frances Greger) called “Nathan Pritikin: The Man Who Healed America’s Heart.” I found it to be a fascinating and inspiring read with mention of all kinds of interesting studies. Unfortunately, there were no references for these studies in the back of the book. One study mentioned was the auditory acuity maintained by the Mabaan tribe in Sudan. Even the older tribespeople enjoy hearing superior to most younger Americans. Not being subjected to the noises of modern technology is probably beneficial for the Mabaan, but apparently atherosclerosis of the organs of hearing is a strong determinant of presbycusis in western societies.  Since the book didn’t mention the diet of the Mabaan, I did a little research. I believe this is the study: Ann. Otol. Rhin & Laryng. 71:727, 1962. To quote from the study: “The results clearly indicate that presbycusis is not inevitable. However, the Mabaan population differs from ours in may ways besides the noise environment: they eat little animal protein, there is no obesity and little dental caries, and average blood pressure does not increase with age.”




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    1. I haven’t seen and am not aware of any studies addressing your specific question. Based on the study discussed in this video it would be best to pursue a plant based diet with Vit B12. Other causes of blindness such as macular degeneration and glaucoma both of which are alot more difficult to treat then cataracts. For information on dietary effects on these conditions see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/prevent-glaucoma-and-see-27-miles-farther/ and  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-macular-degeneration-with-diet/. So it seems to me that a PBD with intake of the foods mentioned for prevention of macular degeneration and glaucoma would give you the best chance of maintaining vision and avoiding surgery. At least until more science comes out so keep tuned to NutritionFacts.org. Best wishes.




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    2.   I haven’t seen and am not aware of any studies addressing your specific question. Based on the study discussed in this video it would be best to pursue a plant based diet with Vit B12. Other causes of blindness such as macular degeneration and glaucoma both of which are alot more difficult to treat then cataracts. For information on dietary effects on these conditions see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/prevent-glaucoma-and-see-27-miles-farther/ and  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-macular-degeneration-with-diet/. So it seems to me that a PBD with intake of the foods mentioned for prevention of macular degeneration and glaucoma would give you the best chance of maintaining vision and avoiding surgery. At least until more science comes out so keep tuned to NutritionFacts.org. Best wishes.




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  3. Three years ago I was diagnosed with cataracts (beginning stage…yellow tinted fluid in eyes). A second eye doctor confirmed the diagnoses. Both said I would be sightless in two years. Today my vision is still 20/15 corrected with contact lenses since age sixteen. How can the two doctors be so wrong?

    A year prior to the diagnosis I started taking a 5% Lugol’s Iodine Solution supplement. Could the iodine possibly have tinted my eye fluid like it does microscope slides?




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    1. Cataracts are opacities in the lens not the fluid in the eye. I’m glad to hear that your physicians were wrong. It is clear that cataracts are less prevalent in groups eating a more plant based diet as pointed out in the article cited in this video. Once they have formed reversing the condition has not been shown. Fortunately surgical treatment of cataracts is one of the most successful and rewarding(for patients) who need the procedure. If you want to protect your vision plant based diet is the way to go although some foods seem to be better than others.. see video on macular degeneration… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/preventing-macular-degeneration-with-diet/ and glaucoma… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/prevent-glaucoma-and-see-27-miles-farther/… and diabetic retinopathy… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-prevent-diabetes/. The science keeps building up to support a plant based diet with Vit B12 supplementation but you need to keep tuned to NutritionFacts.org as the science keeps coming… Good luck.




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      1. Sorry, cataract surgery carries a significantly increased risk of macular degeneration and other secondary complications, which makes it less “rewarding”.
        Anticataract eye drops that can reverse some types of cataract are available on the Net, while others are available in certain countries. They act to reverse cataract via different biochemical pathways, either by de-aggregating alpha-crystallin, or by destroying complexes of alpha-crystallin with Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs) within the lens. However, as top members of the eye profession have themselves openly admitted, they don’t want a non-surgical alternative to cataract surgery because they rely on it for their ‘bread-and-butter’. Although one effective eye drop has been successfully used for 20 years in one world region, the eye profession prefers to remain ignorant of cataract reversal eye drops, which is why they have not been widely tested, further developed and perfected. Consequently they are not widely available, and people are still forced to submit to the surgery or lose their eyesight.




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        1. You said one effective eye drop has been successfully used for 20 years!
          Would like more info on those drops! Including there name.
          Are they used for Cataract treatment?




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          1. Stephen, I see you asked about an eye drop that was mentioned, but not identified as being used successful for cataracts. As a nurse helping moderate this site, I attempted to find some research to help answer your question. Unfortunately, although I could find studies hinting that one specific eye drop, lanosterol, shows some promise in cataract treatment, However, it has no 20 yer history, only recently showing positive results in in vitro studies and on non-human species. Here are some studies you can look at:
            http://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/could-eye-drops-be-an-alternative-treatment-to-cataract-surgery?sso=y
            http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v523/n7562/full/nature14650.html?foxtrotcallback=true
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26862091
            Unfortunately this last study with human subject concluded: “Lanosterol 25 mM solution did not reverse opacification of human age-related cataractous nuclei.”

            I hope this is helpful, although I wish it demonstrated more positive results.




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  4. One other unrelated comment, two internet posters both insist their eye color changed after switching to a vegan diet. Both claim they are healthy and have no eye problems.
    Is there any truth to the claim eyes can change color after switching to a plant based diet?




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  5. What was the length of time the vegans were vegan?

    It would be helpful to know this for all videos and reports even if it is an average or approximate.




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    1. This is obviously anecdotal, but I had cataracts for over ten years though they were not prominent enough to be bothersome. I started on a WFPB diet over two years ago, and a couple o
      f months ago the cataracts in my right eye had become problematic enough to warrant surgery last week. So at least in my case, there was no reversal of my cataracts—and even continued progression of them.




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  6. Thank you for making so much material available to read. It really is a great help for a man living in Germanys north west were a lot of pig eating goes on. Makes things tough when invited to a party. I can actually see the illness in most age groups here due to there high intake of fats and meat. Funny how the truth is staring is in the face but nobody wants to hear about it.

    Keep up the great work.

    Michael Dolan




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    1. Michael: I like getting a peak into the situations in other countries. So, thanks for this post.

      re: “Makes things tough when invited to a party.”
      I fully understand this. Some human cultures have gotten to the point where social life becomes difficult just because you want to eat healthy. It’s possible to go to parties and still live the way you know is best, but you have to work a lot harder at it. You are not alone.




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  7. I have recently come across an article that suggests a high carbohydrate diet is linked to cataract formation. (Chung-Jung Chiu, et al, “Dietary carbohydrate intake and glycemic index in relation to cortical and nuclear lens opacities in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006; 83: 1777-1784)
    Have you reviewed this and is it a valid study? Is it really necessary to start counting the glycemic rating of all my plant-based foods? Thanks.




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  8. Is there ever an urgency to perform cataract surgery? If not, giving a plant based diet a shot is something one could experiment with themselves on a singular trial basis, it seems that going vegan would not hurt and potentially could benefit someone who end up with the surgery if they did nothing. Surgical outcomes have got to be better for those who are plant based eaters vs SAD dieters who often get diabetes. My father-in-law had this surgery performed and his outcome has been worse than if he had not ever had it done.




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  9. All plants contain distilled water, I think people need to start drinking distilled water as well, as all other sources are damaging to the body. There are organic and inorganic minerals the inorganic minerals are no good for the body. Organic minerals are in plants!




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    1. Plants contain water, they don’t “distill” water. Distillation is a process where a liquid is heated to form vapor which is then condensed and collected. That’s distillation Wesley. Minerals are inorganic by definition (no carbon). Calcium is a mineral. Minerals can be found in organic environments like plants. I think that is what you mean.




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  10. I believe it’s these inorganic minerals building up in the body that’s leading cause in glaucoma , arthritis, gout and many other diseases!




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  11. but dr. greger, i have been a vegetarian since 1984 and vegan since 2002. what do i do now that i’m starting to get cataracts? why did this happen?




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  12. I had understood that it was the amount of fats and oils in the diet that contributed to the opacification of the lens of the eye. That reducing these in the diet will halt the progression of cataracts but not undo the damage all ready there.




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  13. I had understood that it was the amount of fats and oils in the diet that contributed to the opacification of the lens of the eye. That reducing these in the diet will halt the progression of cataracts but not undo the damage all ready there.




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  14. I have eaten a mostly vegetarian diet for 20 years excepting for a 2 year period where physicians insisted I start eating meat again due to extremely low iron levels and debilitating heavy menstruation due to fibroids. I have now been eating a primarily vegan diet for the past 5 years and was advised last month that I have cataracts that need treatment right away. So – what have I been doing wrong?? Am I correct that once diagnosed, there is no reversal?




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  15. Galactitol, the reduction product of galactose in excess in the lens of the eye lead to cataracts. And the culprit is Cow’s Milk.




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  16. I’ve been eating a whole foods plant based diet for about two and a half years, and take a B12 supplement. It’s helped me in many ways, but at my eye check up last week I was dismayed to learn that I am developing cataracts. I see my eye doctor once a year so this is a new development. I’m only 39! I don’t have any of the risk factors for early cataract development. The only things I can think might be related are a pregnancy with gestational diabetes and three cortisone injections that occurred years ago (most recent was three years ago). Could my WFPB diet slow the progression? I’ve been told this could be an aggressive form that affects my vision very quickly or it could take years to notice a problem. Just have to watch and wait. Any tips or resources are appreciated, I was shocked and depressed after learning this.




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  17. Hi, I have read that that scientists have had success with lanosterol to reverse cataracts, see http://upriser.com/posts/cataracts-melt-away-thanks-to-new-eye-drops-containing-steroid-lanosterol – they are now going into human trials from what I understand. In the mean-time can you please tell me which food naturally has this compound inside. My doctor told me that I have a mild cataract and if I can reverse that by eating foods containing lanosterol then I would much favour that over an operation. Please respond




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