Getting enough vitamin C in your diet can slash the risk of cataracts by a third.

Research shows it’s not genetics that raises the risk of cataracts – diet and lifestyle are the most important factors. Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29.2% of Americans have cataracts. Cataracts form on the lens of the eye, clouding it and causing it to become opaque. This significantly reduces vision.

Researchers from King’s College London, in the UK, wanted to investigate the role of various nutrients in preventing cataract formation, as well as the impact of environmental factors (especially diet) compared to genetic factors. The researchers analyzed data from 1,000 pairs of female twins in the UK. Each participant completed a questionnaire that evaluated their intake of vitamins A, B, C, D and E, plus copper, zinc, manganese and other nutrients.

The study subjects had the lens of their eyes visualized, and had the test again ten years later. Results showed that environmental factors such as diet were responsible for approximately 65 percent of the risk of developing cataracts. Genetic factors only accounted for 35 percent. People with a diet rich in vitamin C had a 33 percent lower risk of cataract development.

The researchers believe the effects of vitamin C can be attributed to its antioxidant properties. The fluid inside the eye is normally high in vitamin C, which helps to protect the lens from clouding. Unfortunately if your diet doesn’t provide enough vitamin C, your lens will be vulnerable. Other factors can raise the risk of cataracts, such as diabetes and inflammatory conditions (allergies and autoimmune disease), plus certain medications.

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