Drinking 14 units of alcohol a week, specifically red wine, could lead to a lesser chance of having a cataract, findings from a new British study reveals.

Antioxidants in wine lead to a 23% lesser risk to get cataract surgery among moderate drinkers than those who avoid alcoholic beverages, say researchers from the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the University College London's Institute of Ophthalmology.

Cataracts, or cloudy mass that appear in the lens of the eye, cause serious visual impairment and blindness, typically in the elderly. Removing these cataracts is done through a short surgical procedure.

Most Comprehensive Study on Linking Drinking with Cataracts

The British study, considered the most comprehensive of its type, focused on the medical and lifestyle history of 492,549 participants using UK Biobank and Epic Norfolk data. Researchers compared the number of people who claimed they are alcohol drinkers with cataract surgery records, adjusting for such factors that may affect the results, such as gender, weight, and age.

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Findings show that people who consume a maximum of 14 units a week or six and a half glasses had a lower probability of undergoing cataract surgery. The risk, the study says, is lower among drinkers of wine than those who consume beer or spirits. Epic Norfolk study results show those who consumed wine five times a week were 25% less probable to have cataracts removed than non-alcoholics, while UK Biobank shows a 14% lesser risk.

A British study reveals  that drinking wine leads to lesser risk of developing cataracts.
(Photo: Kelsey Knight on Unsplash) A British study reveals that drinking wine leads to a lesser risk of developing cataracts.

Researchers note that oxidative stress that causes gradual eye damage would lead to the development of cataracts. Due to the protective role of polyphenol antioxidants present in red wine, such damage would less likely to happen. They also revealed that with higher alcohol intake, the lesser the chance for cataract surgery, but only with moderate levels of consumption.

They concluded in the journal Ophthalmology: "Our findings suggest a lower risk of undergoing cataract surgery with low to moderate alcohol consumption. The association was particularly apparent with wine consumption."

No Causal Link Reached

Researchers added that while they have established a link between cataracts and moderate drinking, they haven't reached a causal connection.

The UK National Health Service (NHS) determined that drinking is a risk factor for cataracts, similar to diabetes, smoking, and family history.

Critics doubted the study results since such could present a skewed representation of the nation's health since volunteers were often healthy. They also emphasized that comparisons of moderate drinkers' health with non-drinkers are problematic. Such a group of non-drinkers are diverse and include those who ceased the habit due to prevailing illnesses. As such, moderate drinking may appear as having health benefits since they could be compared to those having poor health.

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