A glass of wine a day may keep the doctor away, according to a new study from Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University College London. The study was published in Ophthalmology and showed people who drank low to moderate amounts of alcohol were less likely to need cataract surgery.
Relying on data from 490,000 volunteers, research suggested that low to moderate wine drinkers in particular were the least likely to develop cataracts compared with nondrinkers and drinkers of other types of alcohol. This study is the largest of its type to date.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is when your eye's natural lens becomes cloudy. Proteins in your lens break down and cause things to look blurry, hazy, or less colorful. Treatment includes surgery, where the cataract is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens.
What Is Considered Moderate Drinking?
Moderation was a key takeaway from this research. People who drank more than the suggested amount on a daily basis had about a 6 percent higher risk of cataract surgery compared to people who drank low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Moderate drinking was defined as about 6.5 glasses of wine a week.
Is Wine Good For Eye Health?
Previous studies have also suggested that red wine and diets rich in antioxidants may prevent cataract development.
“Cataract development may be due to gradual damage from oxidative stress during aging,” explained Sharon Chua, M.D., lead author. “The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are especially abundant in red wine.”
However, researchers remind the public that drinking alcohol regularly is also linked to many serious chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and that this study does not suggest excessive drinking or drastic lifestyle changes.
“It could be that alcohol drinkers have other behaviors that are protective against cataracts and it is those factors that drove our study results rather than the alcohol itself. We did aim to control for those factors, but it is never possible to fully account for them in these types of studies,” said researcher Anthony Khawaja, M.D. “However, we certainly did not observe a harmful effect on cataracts within guideline levels of alcohol intake.”
Although further research is needed regarding health benefits, this study offers the industry a firmer understanding of cataract development and prevention.