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Vitamins and Vision

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Exactly how vitamins might prevent cataracts is not fully understood. One theory is that free radicals -- natural but damaging substances formed in the body during daily activities -- may make the eye more susceptible to disease including cataracts. But antioxidant vitamins, like vitamins C and E, may help protect healthy cells from free radical damage.

Colette Heimowitz, MS, director of education and research at the Atkins Center in New York, tells WebMD that she has had great success using antioxidants to prevent the disease.

"Antioxidants are of particular importance for the prevention of cataracts," she says. "Antioxidants can help if a person already has cataract formation by slowing the progress, but if it is more advanced or if there is already clouding of the lens, stronger dosages of certain nutrients are recommended."

Also important, Heimowitz stresses, is blood sugar control for diabetics since uncontrolled blood sugar can result in cataracts.

"The eyes are susceptible to free radical damage and protecting them from ... damage with antioxidants as well as avoiding the overuse of sugar is a good way to help protect against cataract," agrees Michael Janson, author of Dr. Janson's New Vitamin Revolution and a doctor in private in Arlington, Mass.

One of the foremost researchers on nutrients and eye disease, Allen Taylor, PhD, says that the most consistent positive results have been seen with higher blood levels of vitamin C. When it comes to lowering cataract risk with antioxidants, "the jury is still out on almost all antioxidants except for C," he tells WebMD. Taylor is director of the laboratory for nutrition and vision research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Until more research can be done, "I tend to think that a prudent, good diet rich in fruits and vegetables and some kind of multivitamin would not a bad idea," Taylor adds.

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