Drinking wine may help protect you from cataracts

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You may be able to get blind drunk if you have a big night out, but if you keep your drinking in moderation you could actually be protecting your vision.

At least that is according to new research into cataract surgery, which found that drinking wine in moderation provided the strongest protective effect against developing cataracts that required surgery.

The research suggests that the antioxidants in red wine could play a crucial role in cataract prevention.

Read more: Dining out linked to early death

The news wasn’t as good for those that drank heavily or regularly.

People who drank daily or nearly daily had about a 6 per cent higher risk of cataract surgery compared with people who consumed alcohol moderately.

cataract is a clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens.

Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t affect vision early on. But over time, cataracts eventually make it more difficult to read, drive a car or see people’s faces.

Read more: What you should drink before exercising

When a cataract requires surgery, an ophthalmologist surgically removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial lens.

Cataract surgery is the most effective and most common procedure performed in all of medicine.

Some 30 per cent of Australians have cataracts. They are common in older people and our population is ageing, so the prevalence of cataracts is increasing. 

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This study tracked 490,000 volunteers in the UK who agreed to give detailed information about their health and lifestyle throughout their lives.

The participants answered a detailed questionnaire that assessed the amount and type of alcohol they consumed, among other things.

After taking into account factors already known to affect cataracts – age, sex, ethnicity, social deprivation, weight, smoking and diabetes – the researchers found that people who consumed about 6.5 standard glasses of wine per week were less likely to undergo cataract surgery.

Wine drinkers benefitted the most compared with those who abstained and those who drank other types of alcohol, showing a 23 per cent reduction in cataract surgery in one study group and a 14 per cent reduction in the other study group.

Lead researcher Dr Anthony Khawaja said that despite the size of the study further studies into the link were still needed.

“There was evidence for reducing the chance of requiring future cataract surgery with progressively higher alcohol intake, but only up to moderate levels within current guidelines,” Dr Khawaja explained.

The findings showed that those who drank red wine moderately had a 14 per cent lower risk or requiring cataract surgery than those who abstained from alcohol. People who drank spirits also had a 14 per cent lower risk, those who drank beer had a 13 per cent lower risk and those who drank white wine or champagne had a 10 per cent lower risk.

The study’s findings are consistent with what is already suggested about the health benefits of red wine and with previous studies that found diets rich in antioxidants may prevent the onset of cataracts.

Grape skin is loaded with healthful antioxidants, resveratrol, and flavonoids. These powerful plant compounds and antioxidants are found in higher concentrations in red wine than in white. And both red and white wine have more than beer.

“Cataract development may be due to gradual damage from oxidative stress during ageing,” explained lead author Dr Sharon Chua.

“The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are especially abundant in red wine.”

What is your favourite tipple? How is your eyesight?

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Written by Ben


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