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Vegetarian Diet Reduces the Risk of Cataracts

Study Shows Cataract Risk Can be Lowered by 40%

Research at Oxford University in England reveals that a diet with no meat products may offer nutrients that protect against the formation of cataracts.

The study* followed over 27,000 non-diabetic patients over the age of 40 and theircataract risk reduced by vegetarian diet dietary habits during the 1990’s.  Then their medical records were monitored for the development of cataracts in 2008 and 2009.  There was a positive relationship between cataracts and diet with a progressive decrease in cataracts when less meat was consumed.

When compared to High Meat Eaters (those who ate 3.5 or more ounces of meat daily) there was less risk for:

                Moderate Meat Eaters (1.7-3.4 ounces of meat daily)      4% less risk of developing cataracts

                Low Meat Eaters (less than 1.7 ounces of meat daily)     15% less risk of developing cataracts

                Fish eaters (ate fish but no meat)                                   21% less risk of developing cataracts

                Vegetarians                                                                 30% less risk of developing cataracts

                Vegans                                                                       40% less risk of developing cataracts


It is worth noting that the study shows that eating meat does not promote the formation of cataracts, but rather that a vegetarian diet simply provides protection against the formation of cataracts.  Additionally, there is speculation that vegetarians may practice other healthy lifestyle behavior that also assists in reducing the risk of cataracts.  There was no explanation of specific nutrients that may have contributed to the lower risk.  

Cataracts can lead to severe vision loss and legal blindness if not treated. Fortunately there are effective treatments for cataracts including cataract surgery using lasers.                   


* Appleby PN, Allen NE, Key TJ. Diet, vegetarianism, and cataract risk. Am Journal Clinical Nutrition. 2011;93(5):1128-35.

Topics: Cataracts and Diet, Vegetarian Diet, Cataracts and Meat Eaters, Cataract Risk

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