Cataracts -- clouding of the lens of the eye -- become more common as people age. There's some evidence that cataracts are less common in people who get more antioxidants in their diet. Statins -- the cholesterol-lowering drugs that include Crestor, Lipitor, Lescol, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Zocor -- have antioxidant properties.
Might they protect against cataracts? Barbara E.K. Klein, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, looked at data collected in the Beaver Dam Eye Study, which is following some 6,000 Wisconsin residents over time.
Among some 1,300 study participants examined in 1998-2000 (at an average age of 63) and again in 2003-2005, 210 developed nuclear cataracts. This kind of cataract, in the center of the eye lens, is the most common kind of age-related cataract.
Sure enough, Klein's team found that people taking statins had a 60% lower chance of getting cataracts than those who did not take the drugs. They report their findings in the June 21 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Much of this may have been due to one drug in particular -- Zocor. Zocor and Lipitor were the most commonly used statins among study participants. Those who took Zocor had a 72% lower risk of nuclear cataracts. Those who took Lipitor had a 27% lower risk. Those who took Pravachol, Lescol, and Mevacor had a combined 33% lower risk.
Risk for other kinds of age-related cataracts did not go down with the use of statin drugs.
The researchers will continue to follow study participants to see if these findings hold up over time.