Vitamin Deficiencies as a Cause of Cataracts
PLEASE NOTE: RESEARCH CLEARLY INDICATES THAT SPECIFIC VITAMINS AND NUTRIENTS may play a role in preventing, stabilizing and reducing cataracts naturally without surgery. As encouraging as this definitely is, it’s unfortunate that researchers have not yet studied the potential positive effects that a comprehensive combination of select nutrients might deliver. While we continue to advocate for such comprehensive research, we will also highlight the established and emerging research on individual nutrients, such as the below.
For more than two decades, medical journals have published studies showing that vitamin deficiencies result in cataract formation.
For example, the February 1988 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology was one of the first to report that persons who take vitamin E and vitamin C have an approximately 86% reduced risk in developing a cataract. Also, a study in Australia showed that a person taking vitamin E alone reduced the risk of developing a cataract by 56%.
But vitamins E and C aren’t the whole picture. Free radicals – one of the presumed causes of cataracts – require not only vitamins E and C to be neutralized, but also an enzyme that is zinc based (zinc picolinate or oratate), an enzyme that is selenium based (selenium chelate), a compound called glutathione, and riboflavin and niacin (two B complex vitamins), among others.
Several studies going back over 15 years proved that zinc deficiency causes cataracts. For example, in Canada a company raising fish for a living did not supplement its fish food with zinc and all of the salmon developed cataracts. Similar studies have resulted in cataracts in chickens and rabbits.
In his book, Selenium As Food & Medicine, Richard Passwater, Ph.D., tells the story of a doctor who was reversing cataracts using selenium. A study at the University of Minnesota proved that glutathione, which is a protein molecule and enzyme, was essential for preventing cataracts.
Before a cataract forms in the eye, the lens of the eye becomes completely devoid of vitamin C and of glutathione. (The eye, incidentally, has the highest concentration of vitamin C than any other organ in the body.) The body usually makes its own glutathione and recycles it and that recycling process depends upon selenium; so, if you’re adequate in selenium, you don’t need glutathione.
Similarly, for many years deficiencies in riboflavin (B-2) and niacin (B-3) have been reported as causes of cataracts.
Modern farming methods have depleted the soil of many essential trace minerals, including selenium. In fruits and vegetables, too, many vitamins, including vitamin C, are now found in lower levels than they were 50 years ago.
Evidence is mounting every day that long-term vitamin and mineral deficiencies drain the health of our bodies. Our eyes are no different.
Hopefully, further research will be conducted that examines the real potential of high-dose vitamin, mineral and anti-oxidant supplements not only in the prevention and lowered risk of cataract formation, but also in reducing the size of a cataract, and possibly eliminating it altogether.
Certainly, every cataract sufferer would avoid cataract surgery if he or she could get better vision without it.
And, on a larger level, if cataract surgery could be delayed across the country, the potential savings to the health care and Medicare system in the United States would be billions of dollars annually.
More on this in future posts.