Study links wine to reduced risk of needing cataract surgery

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If you enjoy a glass of wine now and then, you might be reducing your risk of needing cataract surgery.

A new British study tracked the health and lifestyles of 469,387 participants of the United Kingdom’s Biobank and 23,162 participants of European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk to see if alcohol consumption influenced a person’s need for cataract surgery. U.K. Biobank is a large, community-based cohort of 502,504 U.K. residents ages 40-69 years who are registered with the National Health Service.

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Age-related cataract is the leading cause of visual impairment worldwide and is a significant public health burden. According to the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors Study, cataract accounted for 35% of blindness and 25% of visual impairment in adults aged 50 years and older in 2015.

“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,” said study lead author Sharon Chua, a researcher from University College London Institute of Ophthalmology.

Grape skin is full of healthy antioxidants, an antioxidant-like compound called resveratrol and other heathy chemicals, called flavonoids.

Compared to people who don’t drink wine or drink another type of alcohol, moderate wine drinkers — three or four glasses a week —were 14%-23% less likely to require cataract surgery, the study found.

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Moderate drinkers of white wine or champagne had a 10% lower risk, and moderate drinkers of beer and spirits had a 13% and 14% lower risk, respectively, when compared with people who don’t drink.

But, the study found, there can be too much of a good thing. Participants who consumed a glass or more of alcohol each day were 6% more likely to need the surgery than those who stuck with three or four glasses.

“Cataract development may be due to gradual damage from oxidative stress during aging,” Chua said in a press release, so the antioxidants in wine might help counter that.

“I think that this is an important study, however further studies are necessary to see if the findings will be repeated,” Dr. Matthew Gorski, an ophthalmologist at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y., told “At this time, I will certainly not be telling my patients to drink small amounts of alcohol in order to decrease the chance of cataract surgery.” He was not involved in the study.

The study was published March 31 in the journal Ophthalmology.

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