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Healthy diet may cut cataract risk

Women can reduce their chances of developing cataracts by eating a healthy diet low in fatty food and salt, a new study has suggested.

A cataract is a cloudy patch that develops in the lens of the eye, leading to blurred or misty vision. Chiefly an age-related condition, it is the world's leading cause of blindness.

Researchers in the US studied the eating habits of nearly 2,000 women in the 50-79 age group living in Iowa, Wisconsin and Oregon, and gave them Healthy Eating Index scores based on their diet.

Women who consumed less than the recommended levels of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and salt-derived sodium received high scores.

High-scoring participants also included the guideline levels or higher amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and protein-rich meat, beans, fish or eggs in their diet.

Findings showed that women with the top 20% of healthy eating scores had a 37% lower risk of developing cataracts than those in the bottom fifth of the table.

Although diet was the biggest risk factor, smoking and obesity were also linked to the disease, as was having brown eyes, being short-sighted, and having high blood pressure.

The researchers, led by Dr Julie Mares from the University of Wisconsin, wrote in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology: "Lifestyle improvements that include healthy diets, smoking cessation, and avoiding obesity may substantively lower the need for and economic burden of cataract surgery."

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Archives of Ophthalmology