Vegetarians and vegans have a lower risk of cataracts than meat-eaters

A new British study published adds to the mounting evidence in favour of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. The study was published in the March 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and it concludes that vegetarians and vegans have a much lower risk of cataracts than meat-eaters.

The researchers who wrote the study monitored the medical records of 27,670 non-diabetic people aged 40 or over to see if and when they developed cataracts. They found a strong correlation between the amount of meat in a person's diet and cataract risk.

The highest risk was for high meat eaters (those that eat more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day). The next highest risk was for moderate meat eaters, then low meat eaters, followed by fish eaters (people who eat fish but no other meat). Vegetarians and vegans had the lowest risk.
Normal vision
Vision with cataracts
This means that reducing your meat consumption, even if you do not become fully vegetarian, will reduce cataract risk. There was a big difference in risk between vegans and meat eaters. The risk for vegans was about 40 percent lower than it was for the high meat eater category.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye's crystalline lens that usually develops slowly over time. (In the case of post-traumatic cataracts, however, they can also occur very quickly.) It is the leading cause of poor vision in adults.

What if you have cataracts?

The optometrists at our Vancouver eye clinic routinely diagnose cataracts and if surgery is required to remove them, I refer patients to a good surgeon. With today's surgical techniques the surgery can be as quick as 15 minutes! However, all surgery has some risk and should not be undertaken lightly.

Cataract surgery

And with cataract surgery it will cost you several hundred dollars for a good quality replacement lens if you want the best vision. Government health insurance pays for the most basic lens; it is adequate but not the best). There are also risks associated with cataract surgery. While complications are not common, they do happen and every optometrist has several patients who have had bad outcomes from cataract surgery. It is always better to prevent the condition for occurring and one way is to reduce the amount of meat in your diet. While this will improve your eye health, it also has a number of other health benefits.