A Carrot A Day Keeps The Eye Doctor Away

For generations, parents have been encouraging children to eat their carrots so that they have good eyes. A growing body of evidence suggests that parents should heed their own advice: Eating carrots may reduce your risk of developing cataracts.

Types of Cataracts

Cataracts develop as people age and their eyes don't work as well. The eye's lens is primarily composed of proteins and water. Later in life, proteins sometimes cluster together, and light can't pass through them as it once did. This clouds the eye's vision, creating a cataract.

Vision Web breaks down the three main types of cataracts:

  • subcapsular cataracts are located towards the back of the lens
  • cortical cataracts are located on the edges of the lens
  • nuclear cataracts are located in the center, or nucleus, of the lens

Diabetes and Subcapsular Cataracts

A number of risk factors, not the least of which is aging, contribute to your likelihood of developing cataracts. Vision Web's article mentions one specific factor that leads to an increased risk of subcapsular cataracts: diabetes.

Silver Lake Eye Clinic explains how diabetes causes cataracts. When your body's blood sugar levels go up and down, the amount of sugar in your eyes' lenses also increases and decreases. To compensate for this, the lenses swell up with water when sugars increase and get rid of excess water when sugars decrease. This process repeatedly stretches and compresses the proteins in your lenses, and they become prematurely disfigured.

Oxidation and Cataracts

While diabetes has been linked directly with subcapsular cataracts, aging remains the most common cause of cataracts. The Mayo Clinic says that most cataracts are caused by aging. The precise issue that arises with increased age, however, remains uncertain.

Some researchers have begun to explore whether oxidation in the eye's lens is the underlying cause of cataracts in elderly people. One of the most suggestive studies, which was done by the National Institute of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that oxidation caused cataracts in the lenses of rat eyes.

A separate study from Pathophysiology explains how oxidation can lead to cataracts. Oxidation is a natural process. During metabolism, free radicals are produced. If not eliminated by another chemical process, these free radicals eventually cause cataracts. To eliminate the free radicals, the body needs antioxidants. Antioxidants will bond with free radicals, and thus reduce the likelihood of cataracts.

Thus, if your body were to have an ample supply of antioxidants, it should be able to keep the number of free radicals in check. In theory, eliminating all of your body's free radicals would greatly reduce your chances of developing cataracts.

Carrots and Cataracts

Eating carrots is one way to fight against both diabetes and oxidation.

First, carrots are low in sugar. Eating a bunch of them will not likely cause diabetes, because there is so little sugar in carrots. According to Sugar Stacks, you would have to eat three pounds of carrots to consume the equivalent of one soda's worth of sugar.

Second, carrots are high in antioxidants. Vitamin C and beta-carotene are two antioxidants found in all varieties of carrots. These are the nutrients that will help remove free radicals from your body.

A Carrot a Day

Eating your carrots may not be a substitute for going to the eye doctor at a place like Country Hills Eye Center. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends seeing an eye doctor every year or two for those over 55 -- even if you eat your carrots. Nevertheless, eating a carrot a day may keep the eye doctor at bay, or at least from performing cataract surgery on you. Perhaps it's time you started eating your carrots.