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Healthy diet fights cataract risk

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Women who follow a healthy diet cut their risk of developing cataracts, researchers have claimed.

Eating less fatty food and salt has been found to significantly protect women from the disease, which is the leading cause of blindness.

The diets of almost 2,000 women were studied by US researchers.

A healthy eating index score was given to those taking part, who were aged between 50 and 79 and all living in Iowa, Wisconsin and Oregon in the US.

Participants with higher scores consumed less than the guideline levels for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and salt-derived sodium.

They also ate vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and protein-rich meat, beans, fish or eggs at recommended or higher levels.

Women with the top 20% of healthy eating scores were found to have a 37% lower risk of developing cataracts than those in the bottom fifth of the table.

Although diet was the biggest risk factor, smoking and obesity were also linked to the disease, as was having brown eyes, being short-sighted, and high blood pressure.

The researchers, led by Dr Julie Mares from the University of Wisconsin, wrote in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology: “Lifestyle improvements that include healthy diets, smoking cessation, and avoiding obesity may substantively lower the need for and economic burden of cataract surgery.”

Cataracts are primarily an age-related condition, caused when cloudy patches appear in the lens of the eye making vision blurred or misty.

In the UK, more than half of people over the age of 65 are believed to have some cataract development in one or both eyes.

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