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The benefits of optimal levels of dietary lutein are usually associated with decreased risk of AMD. However, in a previous EduFacts (volume 2, number 13), we summarized recent work by Harvard researchers Brown, Hankinson, Seddon and colleagues,(1) which demonstrated an 18% deceased risk of cataract extraction in male professionals who were at the highest quintile intake of dietary lutein. Their study was a prospective study with over 36,000 participants.
In the May 1999 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, Lyle, Mares-Perlman, Klein, et al (2) reported some recent results of the Beaver Dam Eye Study, which also provide support for the positive role of dietary lutein in preventing cataract.
The Beaver Dam cohort consisted of 4926 people aged 43-84 residing in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, who were enrolled into this prospective study in 1988-90. A random sample of 2429 subjects participated in a dietary study. Cataract status at baseline was determined using a 5-point photo grading system - subjects were classified as being free of severe opacity (grade£3 in both eyes) or having opacity (grade ³4) in at least one eye. Dietary intake of lutein and other nutrients was assessed and quantified rigorously. Diet both at baseline and in the distant past (10 years earlier than baseline) was quantified. Patients free of cataract at baseline were followed for 5 years. Incident cataract during the 5-year follow-up was determined. The risk of incident cataract among subjects in the highest quintile of intake, relative to that among those in the lowest quintile was determined (odds ratios) for each nutrient. The main finding in this study was that high lutein intake in the distant past significantly reduced the risk of incident cataract by 50% (odds ratio=0.5, p= 0.002.) High intake of lutein at baseline reduced risk of incident cataract by 60% (odds ratio=0.4, p =0.06) among subjects under 65 years at baseline. High intake of spinach/greens (with high lutein content) was also found to reduce risk of incident cataract. The authors concluded that nutrient intake in middle age may influence development of cataracts far into older age.
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