What is Cataract?

The lenses inside your eyes are crystal-clear structures that sit directly behind your pupil and help to bring what you look at into focus. When you are young, your lenses are supple and their shape is easily changed by the tugging of tiny muscles attached to them to let you see clearly up close and far away. As the years pass, however, the process of aging not only stiffens the lens, making it hard to see close objects clearly, but causes opaque spots to form, like flaws in a diamond, inside the clear lens. These flaws, or cataracts, are not clear; they cause a fogginess to what you see. If left unattended to the point that the entire lens becomes opaque, you could not see at all from that eye. One of the truly miraculous advances in medicine is that eye surgeons can remove the aged cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens, restoring vision. Once the cataract has advanced to a stage where vision is greatly reduced, surgery is the only option to clear vision. But earlier in life, several nutrients play a part in preventing the formation of cataracts or in arresting their growth before they reach a size to severely hamper your vision. Let's take a look at these nutrients.

CataractWhat makes Cataract worse?

• An article in Science magazine reported that the greatest cause of cataracts is the body's inability to cope with food sugars. The worst offender is lactose, followed by refined white sugar. Simple sugars include: table sugar and corn syrup (sucrose), honey (glucose), milk sugar (lactose), fruit sugar (fructose), and xylose, the sugar-like substance often used to sweeten "sugar-free" diabetic candies, chewing gum, and cookies. Recommendation: Sharply reduce or even eliminate your intake of sucrose and xylose products. Let the dietary sugars you do eat come mainly from fresh fruit and dairy sources, keeping the total amount of even these sugars at 30% to 50% of your daily carbohydrate intake. Refer to the discussion of macronutrients on page 23 of Section we for more dietary information.

•  Dairy products, as mentioned above, and the simple sugar found in milk—lactose—can promote cataract formation, especially in some people who have inherited a difficulty in metabolizing lactose and its "cousin," galactose. If you have a family risk for such a lactose sugar metabolism disorder (and if you do, you will likely already know it), dairy products of all types will be a problem. Let us clarify that this kind of inherited problem with metabolizing lactose is not the same thing as "lactose intolerance" or "milk intolerance," which causes bloating, gas, stomach cramping, and diarrhea in some people when they eat dairy products. This latter kind of milk intolerance occurs in people who lack an enzyme in their intestine needed to break down the milk sugar and absorb it properly. And although these people may wish to avoid dairy products in order to avoid these unpleasant symptoms, they are not among the group at increased risk for cataract because of high lactose intake.

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