Nutritional factors in cataract

Annu Rev Nutr. 1990;10:233-54. doi: 10.1146/


Age-related cataract is a condition characterized by multiple mechanisms and multiple risk factors. The mechanisms that bring about a loss in transparency include oxidation, osmotic stress, and chemical adduct formation. Risk factors for cataract include diabetes, radiation (ultraviolet B, x-ray), certain pharmaceutical substances, certain nutritional states, and possibly acute episodes of dehydration. Interaction occurs between and among mechanistic factors and risk factors. Thus nutrition must be considered as one part of a tapestry of intertwined events and responses. Certain experimental models for nutritional cataract have been useful for study of the cataractogenic process but are probably not important factors in the human disease. Little current evidence supports significant roles in human senile cataract for imbalances of tryptophan or other amino acids, deficiencies of calcium or selenium, or excessive intake of selenium. Overconsumption of galactose is likely to be hazardous only in subjects with genetic inability to metabolize this sugar. Vitamins with antioxidant potential (riboflavin, vitamin E, vitamin C, carotenoids) deserve further research scrutiny to ascertain their significance in cataract etiology. Excessive caloric intake needs to receive added emphasis as a factor contributing to cataract. Diabetes increases the likelihood of cataract three- to four-fold. Obesity, defined as more than 20% overweight, is considered a major risk factor for non-insulin-dependent, or type II, diabetes (69, 73). Weight control can be recommended as a prudent, safe, economic, and effective means of lowering risk probability for diabetes and the associated complication of cataract.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cataract / etiology*
  • Cataract / physiopathology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / physiology
  • Dietary Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / physiopathology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Vitamins / physiology


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Vitamins