Although research has not positively proved that nutrition can prevent cataract, there is ample evidence that eating the right foods can help. Certainly, this cannot hurt even though the ultimate prevention for cataract is simple: Never grow old.
But, nutrition and lifestyle changes are the best bets for preventing or slowing the development of cataracts. In fact, experts suggest corn, especially the purple corn, as a potential beneficial food to protect against diabetic cataract.
In the study, Thailand researchers tested the anti-cataract effect of different concentrations of Zea mays L. (purple waxy corn), on lenses removed from rats in the laboratory at room temperature.
The researchers linked its protective effect against cataract partly to its ability to lower oxidative stress in the 2014 study published in the journal, Biomedical Research International.
Although cataract surgery, in which the lens is removed, is always successful, cataracts are still a major cause of treatable blindness worldwide. Cataract causes blurring and affects the ability to see colours correctly. Unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor diet, leading to diabetes, can all contribute to cataract formation.
Diabetes puts people at a higher risk of cataract. Although the reason why this is so is still not fully understood, people with diabetes mellitus statistically face a 60 per cent greater risk of developing cataracts.
Oxidative stress caused by free radicals plays a pivotal role in the development of diabetes complications, including diabetic eyes, hypertension, and blindness due to cataract.
But several studies have indicated that important compounds in fruits and vegetables boost eye health and lower the chances of developing eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration in humans.
The Nurses’ Health Study revealed that women who ate a very healthy diet full of all kinds of antioxidants from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains were half as likely to develop cataracts as women who did not eat such a healthy diet.
In fact, global researchers have identified lack of lutein and zeaxanthin as dietary causes in cataract and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) related blindness. These are carotenoid pigments that impart yellow or orange colour to various common foods such as corn, eggs, orange/yellow peppers and carrots.
They constitute the main pigments found in the yellow spot of the human retina which protect the macula from damage by blue light, improve visual acuity and scavenge harmful reactive oxygen species.
Moreover, Thailand researchers in another study found that combining corn with ginger also protective against cataract and AMD-related blindness in diabetic patients.
Like corn, ginger and its constituents have also been shown to have the potential to protect against diabetic retinopathy also known as diabetic eye disease, a diabetes complication that affects eyes.
In the study, published in the journal, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, researchers found the combination of corn and ginger more potent than the antioxidant effect of either purple waxy corn or ginger alone under laboratory conditions in protecing from cataract in diabetic rats.
However, they said further studies will still be required to understand the precise underlying mechanism and constituents of corn and ginger that is protective against cataract and diabetic retinopathy.
Ironically, in 2015, the researchers suggested that a combined extract of purple waxy corn and ginger could in fact help with reducing nerve damages in the extremities such as the limbs in persons with diabetes in the journal, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Basically by adding certain nutrients to our diets every day, we can preserve or improve our vision and stave off AMD. A diet rich in Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids will help to protect from these irreversible eye conditions.
Furthermore, by adding these healthy foods to our diets, and cutting out unhealthy eating habits individuals can maintain a healthy weight, including better eye sight.
Dark leafy greens: These leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli provide the body with Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision as it helps protect the cornea (the surface of the eye).
Carrots: Foods such as pumpkin and carrots are high in beta-carotenes, Vitamins A and C that the body needs for good vision.
Citrus fruit: These are rich in Vitamin C that is critical for eye health. The antioxidants in these fruits can delay or even prevent cataracts and AMD.
Oily fish: Oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which help protect from both age-related macular degeneration and dry-eye syndrome.
Tomatoes: The lycopene in tomatoes can contribute to good eye health. Some studies have found that people with higher levels of lycopene have lower levels of macular degeneration.