Drinking wine can slash your risk of needing eye cataract surgery by up to 23 per cent, study finds 


Drinking WINE five or more times a week can slash your risk of needing eye cataract surgery by up to 23%, study finds

  • Drinkers who consume up to 14 units a week are less likely to need eye surgery 
  • Wine was the most effective, slashing the risk by up to 23 per cent 
  • While the reason for the link remains unclear, the experts suggest that polyphenol antioxidants in wine may have a protective role

If you’re partial to the odd glass of wine in the week, a new study will come as music to your ears. 

Researchers have revealed that drinking alcohol in moderation cuts the risk of needing eye cataract surgery by almost a quarter.   

The study found that drinking wine was the most effective, with five or more glasses a week slashing the need for eye cataract surgery by 23 per cent. 

While the reason for the link remains unclear, the experts suggest that polyphenol antioxidants – which are especially abundant in red wine – may have a protective role. 

The study found that drinking wine was the most effective, with five or more glasses a week slashing the need for eye cataract surgery by 23 per cent (stock image)

The study found that drinking wine was the most effective, with five or more glasses a week slashing the need for eye cataract surgery by 23 per cent (stock image)

What are cataracts? 

Cataracts occur when the lens – a small transparent disc inside the eye that helps to focus light – becomes cloudy.

The patches gradually become bigger over time, according to the NHS, and can lead to blurry vision and, in some cases, blindness. 

Cataracts affect around half of over-65 in the UK. Some 24 million adults aged over 40 in the US suffer, according to figures. 

In children they are much less common, with around one in 3,000 being born with them or developing them in childhood.

The study, carried out by Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London’s Institute of Ophthalmology, found that drinkers who consumed up to 14 units per week – the maximum recommended by the NHS – were less likely to have the operation to remove cloudy patches from the lens of the eye.

The most significant reduction in risk was linked to drinking wine rather than beer or spirits, with people who drank wine five or more times per week up to 23% less likely than non-drinkers to undergo cataract surgery.

However, people who drank a lot of beer, cider or spirits had no significantly reduced risk.

‘Our findings suggest a lower risk of undergoing cataract surgery with low to moderate alcohol consumption,’ the researchers said. 

Fourteen units of alcohol per week is the equivalent of about six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

A 750ml bottle of red, white or rose wine (alcohol by volume 13.5%) contains 10 units.

The research is the largest of its kind to date and examined data from more than 490,000 people in the UK Biobank and EPIC-Norfolk cohort studies.

A team of experts compared how much people said they drank with patient records of cataract surgery, adjusting for factors that could influence the result, such as age, weight and gender.

Cataracts occur when the lens - a small transparent disc inside the eye that helps to focus light - becomes cloudy

Cataracts occur when the lens – a small transparent disc inside the eye that helps to focus light – becomes cloudy

Writing in the journal Ophthalmology, they concluded: ‘Our findings suggest a lower risk of undergoing cataract surgery with low to moderate alcohol consumption. The association was particularly apparent with wine consumption.’

The experts noted, however, that drinking large amounts of alcohol is linked to a range of serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

An estimated 30% of over-65s are thought to have cataracts that affect their vision in one or both eyes.

Cataract surgery involves replacing the lens with a clear plastic one.

Dr Anthony P Khawaja, who led the research, said: ‘We observed a dose-response with our findings – in other words, there was evidence for reducing chance of requiring future cataract surgery with progressively higher alcohol intake, but only up to moderate levels within current guidelines.

‘This does support a direct role of alcohol in the development of cataracts, but further studies are needed to investigate this.’

Dr Sharon Chua, who also worked on the study, said: ‘The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are especially abundant in red wine.’

How to protect your vision from cataracts

Get regular eye checks

Blurred vision, halos and light sensitivity may not appear until cataracts are well developed. So have an eye check every two years and annually after the age of 60. If they spot one, your optician can refer to you to an NHS specialist. Private clinics offer surgery for between £2,000 and £4,000 per eye. The NHS does more than 400,000 such operations a year.

Ophthalmologist Professor David Gartry says: ‘Cataract surgery is a safe procedure that can achieve dramatic improvement when cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair vision and affect quality of life.’

Blurred vision, halos and light sensitivity may not appear until cataracts are well developed. So have an eye check every two years and annually after the age of 60

Blurred vision, halos and light sensitivity may not appear until cataracts are well developed. So have an eye check every two years and annually after the age of 60

Tuck into green veg

Eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, as they contain antioxidants which may combat stress that damages cells in lens tissue. ‘When symptoms first appear, you may improve your vision for a while with new glasses or stronger lighting but your vision will gradually deteriorate over time,’ says Prof Gartry.

Know the warning signs

One of the most common types of cataract is called nuclear and starts in the centre of the lens. ‘An early sign of one is when a patient becomes more short-sighted after years of a steady prescription,’ says Prof Gartry. ‘That’s because the nucleus of the lens focuses the light more if it has a cataract in it.’

 

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