Prevent Disease with These Foods

Preventing and treating cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration

| July/August 1999

Eighty percent of what we perceive and know about the world depends on our eyes. Like a camera, the eye has a single lens that focuses on objects and projects an image onto the retina, the light-sensitive region at the back of the eyeball. A normal, clear lens allows light to pass through unobstructed. But for a number of reasons, the lens, cornea, iris, or eye muscle may develop problems that can cause vision impairment.

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 75 percent of Americans value their eyesight above all other senses. Yet 85 percent admitted that they are not as careful in caring for their eyes as they should be. Virtually all eye injuries and half of the 50,000 cases of blindness that occur annually could be prevented, according to experts, with simple common-sense precautions.


Cataracts are the leading cause of impaired vision and blindness in the United States. Approximately four million Americans have some degree of vision-impairing cataract, and at least 40,000 people in the United States become blind each year as a result.

A cataract is any clouding of the normally clear and transparent lens of the eye. When a cataract forms, the lens becomes so opaque that light cannot easily be transmitted to the retina. If only a small part of the lens is involved, sight is not greatly impaired. If a large portion of the lens becomes cloudy, however, sight can be partially or completely impaired, and the cataract must be removed.

Many factors contribute to the progression of cataracts, including other eye disorders, injury, systemic diseases (such as diabetes mellitus), toxins, hereditary diseases, and ultraviolet and near-ultraviolet light or radiation exposure. Cataracts usually occur in elderly persons, although people of any age can develop them.

Prevention and treatment. Cataracts develop slowly and often don’t reach the point where they interfere with a person’s vision. The most important ways of preventing cataracts are to consume nutritional foods and supplements that maintain the integrity of the lens and prevent it from being damaged by chemical toxins and the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now considering adopting national regulations that will require all new sunglasses to block 99 percent of ultraviolet B radiation.

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