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The study's key finding: Women who get more lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin E are less likely to develop cataracts than women who skimp on those nutrients.
Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin include leafy green vegetables (such as spinach, kale, turnip greens, collards, and mustard greens), squash, green peas, broccoli, pumpkin, and corn.
Foods rich in vitamin E include vegetable oils, almonds, sunflower seeds, leafy green veggies, and fortified cereals.
The new study on cataracts and nutrients included more than 35,000 middle-aged U.S. women who were followed for 10 years, on average.
At the study's start, the women completed dietary surveys and noted their use of dietary supplements. By the end of the study, the group had 2,031 new cases of cataracts.
Cataracts were 18% rarer in women who got the most lutein and zeaxanthin from foods and vitamin E from foods and supplements, compared to women with the lowest intakes of those nutrients.
Other factors -- including age, smoking, and health status -- didn't affect the results.
But the study was observational; the women weren't asked to take vitamins or change their diets as a direct test of cataract prevention. So the study doesn't include recommendations about taking supplements for cataract prevention.
The researchers, including William Christen, ScD, of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, report their findings in January's edition of the Archives of Ophthalmology.
SOURCES: Christen, W. Archives of Ophthalmology, January 2008; vol 126: pp 102-109. WebMD Health News: "Nutrients May Help Save Eyes." National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin E." News release, JAMA/Archives.
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