Moderate consumption of alcohol may improve health and longevity in a number of ways, including prevention of diseases such as cancer and heart disease, but some forms of alcohol have been shown in a recent study to play a role, both beneficial and harmful, in a condition commonly referred to as cataracts.
According to new research from Martha S. Morris, an instructor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and her colleagues, alcohol may affect different areas of the lens differently. The researchers studied women who had early forms of two types of cataracts, the most common form, a nuclear opacity as well as a less common form, cortical opacity. The researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts found that women who drank more than 2 glasses per week of any type of alcohol (beer, wine or distilled spirits) all increased their risk of getting a nuclear opacity by 13 percent.
When it came to the less common form, cortical opacities, women who drank more than 2 glasses of wine or distilled spirits were less likely to develop a cortical opacity.
The different effects of alcohol on the different types of opacities may be a result of both pro- and anti-oxidant properties of alcoholic beverages and the different ways they interact with components of the eye.
"This study reinforces the importance of eating and drinking in moderation," Morris notes. "For people who are predisposed to a nuclear cataract, including those who smoke, who are exposed to too much unprotected UV sunlight or have diabetes, drinking less is probably a good idea."
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Contact: Randi Konikoff Beranbaum MS, RD