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Statins and Cataracts

New research suggests that statin drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol may increase the risk of cataracts. Canadian researchers used data from the British Columbia Ministry of Health databases from 2000 to 2007, and from the U.S. database IMS LifeLink from 2001 to 2011. In total, the investigators reviewed data from more than 1.3 million individuals (including controls). They reported a 27 percent increased risk of developing cataracts requiring surgery in the British Columbia patients. They also reported a seven percent increased risk in the U.S. patients. Earlier studies had noted an increased risk of cataracts among patients taking statins, but those results had been judged "inconsistent and controversial." The data and results of the new investigation were held to be statistically significant. The researchers wrote that no specific statins were found to pose a larger risk than others, and suggested that the cataract risk was a "class effect" of the drugs. They concluded that "because the relative risk is low and because cataract surgery is both effective and well tolerated, this association should be disclosed but not be considered a deterrent to use of statins when warranted" to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

New Strategy to Prevent Cataracts

The more antioxidants in women’s diets, the lower the risk of developing cataracts as they age. This news comes from a Swedish study that looked at the diets of more than 30,000 middle aged and older women, and found those with the highest total intake of antioxidant nutrients were 13 percent less likely to develop cataracts than women whose diets were lowest in antioxidants. Cataract development may hinge on oxidative damage to the eye’s lens by free radicals, the study leader noted. Her team observed more than 30,000 Swedish women age 49 or older for about 7 years for signs of developing cataracts. The women completed a dietary questionnaire, which enabled the researchers to calculate their subjects’ total antioxidant intake. They found that the women whose diets were highest in antioxidant foods were more educated and less likely to be smokers than the women whose antioxidant intake was lowest. Antioxidants are most plentiful in colorful fruits and vegetables as well as in green tea, red wine and chocolate. The study was published online on December 26, 2013 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Susanne Rautiainen et al, “Total Antioxidant Capacity of the Diet and Risk of Age-Related Cataract: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women,” JAMA Ophthalmology, doi:10.1001