It’s estimated that 2 million in the U.S. alone are afflicted with cataracts. Cataracts appear to be a preventable condition and one would think with that many sufferers there’d be an enormous amount of information pertaining to prevention. If that’s the case why don’t we hear more about it? Over 450,000 cataract surgeries are performed every year and the price tag for the procedures total about 1.5 billion dollars yearly. But, we have to take our share of the blame because the following information has been around for generations.
The lens of the eye, along with some other body parts, never stops growing. We shed our skin, cut our hair or nails, all of these grow from the inside out in order to make way for new cells. The eye grows in a different manner. The new eye cells are along the outside of the circle where the most blood and nutrients are. When the older inner cells begin to die they can’t be sloughed off or trimmed.
As we age our nutrient and oxygen cellular deliveryman begins to slow down. As the older inner cells begin to die and pile up, they thicken the eye’s lens and it becomes opaque and clouded. When that results there isn’t enough light striking the retina or the eye can’t focus. Generally the onset of the cataract is slow, gradual and painless. Occasionally a cataract may swell and become secondary glaucoma.
Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in the world. Diet is a large factor. I’m a middle of the road kind of guy where diet is concerned. Cataracts are a reason not to have excessive carbohydrates in the diet. Our bodies run on glucose. Glucose is manufactured in the body primarily from carbohydrates. There are certain parts of the body that don’t require glucose with parts of the eye being one. The eye requires sorbitol not glucose. If there is an excess of glucose in the body from high carbohydrates and it’s converted into an excess of sorbitol, which is then stored in the eye, cataracts are the result. The body has a difficult time removing excess sorbitol with deterioration and thickening of the lens of the eye being the outcome.
One of the problems with carbohydrates is making a differentiation between the good, bad and the ugly. The triple dipped, sugar soaked peanut, chocolate/caramel candy bar for lunch may taste good but it’s bad for our health. If we think refined sugars, which are pure carbohydrates, are the same as complex carbohydrates like whole grains, etc., things will get ugly. Refined sugars bypass the normal digestion process going directly to the small intestine where they’re absorbed into the bloodstream. That’s why we get a rush from the candy bars, sugar coated cereal, etc. and not from complex carbohydrates. Simple, refined sugars move from the fluid in the eye into the lens causing thickening and clouding with cataracts being the result. If we can see our way, before we can’t see at all, to allow the brain to make the decisions concerning diet instead of our taste buds, we can lower our chances of cataracts.
By increasing the circulation in the eye and making more oxygen and nutrients available to the lens, this is the case with the entire body, we slow the aging processes. There is no one nutritional silver bullet but there are some nutrients that can be very beneficial. Keep in mind that prevention is possible but after the damage is done, vision can rarely be restored without surgical intervention.
Various worldwide research studies have shown that vitamin C and E can decrease the incidence of cataracts. Vitamin C helps keep the entire eye, lens and arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients, more open and pliable. Vitamin E helps protect against sorbitol damage in the eye by helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. The lenses of cataract patients and diabetics generally have abnormally high levels of sorbitol. Zinc deficiencies have been linked to cataract formation.
Diet doesn’t have to be a four-letter word where health is concerned. There’s lots to eat that can please both the brain and the taste buds. Copyright 2007 Larry R. Miller