Background: Cataract is a leading cause of vision impairment worldwide, and surgery is the only available treatment. The process that initiates lens opacification is dependent on the oxidative stress experienced by the lens components. A healthy overall dietary pattern, with the potential to reduce oxidative stress, has been suggested as a means to decrease the risk of developing cataract. We aimed to investigate the hypothesis that an intervention with a Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) rather than a low-fat diet could decrease the incidence of cataract surgery in elderly subjects.
Methods: We included 5802 men and women (age range: 55-80 years) from the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea study (multicenter, parallel-group, randomized controlled clinical trial) who had not undergone cataract surgery. They were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups: (1) a MedDiet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) (n = 1998); (2) a MedDiet enriched with nuts (n = 1914), and a control group recommended to follow a low-fat diet (n = 1890). The incidence of cataract surgery was recorded yearly during follow-up clinical evaluations. Primary analyses were performed on an intention-to-treat basis. Cox regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between the nutritional intervention and the incidence of cataract surgery.
Results: During a follow-up period of 7.0 years (mean follow-up period: 5.7 years; median: 5.9 years), 559 subjects underwent cataract surgery. Two hundred and six participants from the MedDiet + EVOO group, 174 from the MedDiet + Nuts group, and 179 from the control group underwent cataract surgery. We did not observe a reduction in the incidence of cataract surgery in the MedDiet groups compared to the control group. The multivariable adjusted hazard ratios were 1.03 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.84-1.26, p = 0.79) for the control group versus the MedDiet + EVOO group and 1.06 (95% CI: 0.86-1.31, p = 0.58) for the control group versus the MedDiet + Nuts group.
Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first large randomized trial assessing the role of a MedDiet on the incidence of cataract surgery. Our results showed that the incidence of cataract surgery was similar in the MedDiet with EVOO, MedDiet with nuts, and low-fat diet groups. Further studies are necessary to investigate whether a MedDiet could have a preventive role in cataract surgery.
Keywords: Mediterranean diet; PREDIMED; antioxidants; cataract; cataract surgery; extra-virgin olive oil; low-fat diet; nuts.