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Some experts regard cataracts as a nutritional deficiency disease. Though it hasn’t officially been proven by research, anecdotal evidence does point to nutritional deficiencies as possibly playing an important role in the development of this condition. And it can’t hurt for cataract sufferers to pay attention to their diet or even use eye drops that aim to get rid of nutritional deficiencies that are contributing to their eye condition. If you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts, consider supplements for the following nutrients, or eye drops or dietary changes that may contribute to the overall health of the eye and the lens of the eye. Though you may take a multi-vitamin, you may still be deficient in one or all of these nutrients depending on your diet, the other vitamin and mineral supplements that you’re taking, as well as the interaction between nutrients and the use of pharmaceuticals and drugs to treat other chronic diseases that you have. 

Prevent Cataracts with Riboflavin 

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, plays a vital role in maintaining the healthy integrity of the red blood cells, skin, eyes, and nerves. Riboflavin plays an important role in energy production including cellular function and growth and the metabolism of fats, pharmaceuticals, and steroids.

Some experts view the development of cataracts as a nutritional deficiency. Oxidative stress caused by free radicals seems to lead to the development of opacity in the eye lens. This eventually develops into a cataract as people age. Some studies have shown that high-dose riboflavin (vitamin B2) may be a good preventative for the development of cataracts perhaps because of its role in the metabolism of glutathione. 

One study showed that people who consumed 1.6 to 2.2 mg/day of riboflavin were significantly less likely to develop cataracts. For most people, absorption of riboflavin happens in the small intestine. People take an high-dose of 27 mg or more are likely to absorb only a small amount of riboflavin. The excess is mostly excreted in the urine, but a little bit of it is stored in the liver, kidneys, and heart. College Pharmacy produces a specialized eye-drop for cataracts that contains riboflavin (see below for more information).

Foods That Are Rich in Riboflavin

Foods that are particularly high in riboflavin are listed below:

 

  • Eggs
  • Lean meats
  • Organ meats (liver, kidneys, etc.)
  • Milk

 

The following foods contain lower amounts of riboflavin:

 

  • Green vegetables 
  • Grains and cereals fortified with riboflavin

 

If your diet excludes meats, eggs, and milk and you don’t take a vitamin supplement to replace riboflavin, you may be deficient in this vitamin because it is stored only in very small quantities in the human body. Including foods that are high in riboflavin may help prevent and treat cataracts.

Drugs That Can Cause Riboflavin Deficiency and Lead to Cataracts

Patients who take the medication methotrexate for either cancer or autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis may become deficient in riboflavin (vitamin B2) because this drug inhibits the body’s ability to use this nutrient. And certain conditions may also make it harder for your body to absorb or use riboflavin including:

 

  • Cancer
  • Alcoholism
  • Stomach/intestinal problems
  • Prolonged infection
  • Liver disease

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are members of the carotenoid family and both of these compounds are found in the retina and macula of the eye. They function to absorb light from the sun that could be potentially harmful, thereby protecting the lens and other parts of the eye from damage. Studies have suggested that lutein and zeaxanthin may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. In studies, research participants taking 15 mg-20mg of lutein 3 times per week experienced significant vision improvements. Fruits and vegetables, particularly spinach, collard greens, and kale contain these compounds naturally, but those with cataracts may wish to supplement their diet. 

Other Nutrients for Cataracts: Alternative Treatment Options

The lens of the eye is bathed in the liquid known as the aqueous humor. This liquid contains some specific nutrients that are essential for maintaining the health and transparency of the lens. Below are nutrients that may play a role in the development of cataracts:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E (primarily tocopherols)
  • Glutathione
  • Carotenoids – especially Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which form the yellow pigment in the retina and help with the absorption of harmful blue ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • Niacin
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Several studies have shown that people who eat diets high in vitamin A have a reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Other Important Links:

Alternative Treatment for Cataracts

Cataracts: Alternative to Surgery–Homeopathic Schuessler Salts

Xananga / Sananga / Tabernaemontana undulata Eye Drops for Cataracts: Traditional Indigenous Healing for Cataracts

Eye Drops for Cataracts: Alternative Treatment for Cataracts

Stem Cell Therapy for Cataracts: Alternative Treatment Options

References 

WebMD (2005-2020). Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Retrieved January 31, 2020 from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6044/riboflavin-vitamin-b2-oral/details 

Evans, D. (2019). Breakthrough Eye Regeneration Procedure a Success. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from https://www.bettervisionguide.com/stem-cell-cataract-treatment-breakthrough/

Weil, A. (2019). Cataracts. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/vision/cataracts/

Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute (2019). Riboflavin. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/riboflavin#cataracts-prevention

Wang, A., Han, J., Jiang, Y., Zhang, D. (2014). Association of vitamin A and Beta-Carotene with risk for age-related cataract: a meta-analysis. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25194611

National Institutes of Health (2019). Riboflavin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved January 31, 2020 from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Riboflavin-HealthProfessional/