04 April 2011

Seeing vegan: New study correlates meat eating with cataract risk

A new study in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds "a strong relation" between diet and incidence of cataracts, with "high meat eaters" at the greatest risk for the disease, while vegans are at the least risk.

What are cataracts?
Cataracts refers to "a clouding of the lens of the eye, which obstructs the passage of light and leads to vision loss if left untreated." The disease is "an important cause of low vision in both developed and developing countries," and "age-related cataract is responsible for 48% of the world's blindness."

About the study
Scientists recruited 27,670 healthy, non-diabetic participants in the UK to determine their diet as well as their rate of cataracts. Participants were divided into six diet groups, ranging from high-, medium-, and low-meat eaters, to fish eaters, vegetarians, and vegans.

After adjusting for several non-dietary factors such as age, smoking, ethnicity, and blood pressure, the results indicated a direct correlation between animal products in the diet and cataract risk.

When compared to high meat eaters (people whose average daily meat consumption was 100 grams or more), fish eaters had a 20% lower risk for cataracts, vegetarians had a 30% lower risk, and vegans had a whopping 40% lower risk of the disease.

The study's authors, from the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford, concluded that:
"vegetarians and vegans had a significantly lower risk of cataract than did meat eaters, predominantly in the elderly, with a progressive decrease in risk in parallel with the amount of meat and other animal products in the diet."

Author note
An abstract of the study, titled "Diet, Vegetarianism, and Cataract Risk" by Paul N. Appleby, Naomi E. Allen, and Timothy J. Key, was published online in advance of the print publication and is available to the general public for free. Quotations and information in this story were obtained from the full article, which is available to only subscribers or on a pay-per-issue basis. 

Elizabeth Gordon | Facebook
Elizabeth is an Asian-Appalachian writer, activist, and college professor living in north central Massachusetts. Once an avowed carnivore, she was a vegetarian for 15 years before making the conversion to veganism. She is passionate about trying to live a life that lessens, rather than contributes to, the amount of cruelty and suffering in this world. Follow Elizabeth on her Vegosphere blog and Facebook page.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/clarkmaxwell