Moderate red wine consumption cuts cataract risk (May 19, 2005)
by Alyssa Schwartz, MediResource
Here's a new reason for wine lovers to say "Cheers": A new study found that moderate red wine consumption can cut your risk of developing cataracts in half.
The study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, was part of the larger Reykjavik Eye Study, a five-year investigation into age-related eye disease that initially included 1,045 people, all over the age of 50. Data on 846 people was included in the cataract study.
When the study began in 1996, all of the subjects underwent lens imaging to determine whether they had cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye lens that can cause vision to become blurry or impaired. They also completed questionnaires on their medical history, diet, and more. Five years later, participants' eyes were re-examined and they filled out questionnaires detailing their alcohol consumption. Participants were then characterized in terms of their alcohol consumption as lifetime abstainers, former drinkers, people who consume less than one drink per month and drinkers - those who consume more than two drinks per month.
Of the 846 participants, 318 were classified as drinkers, with nearly 300 of them considered moderate drinkers and 18 considered heavy drinkers. Heavy drinkers were defined as drinking 24 g of ethanol (the amount in roughly half a litre of beer or eight ounces of wine) per day for men or 12 g a day for women, while moderate drinking was loosely defined as ranging from two drinks per month to two or three per day.
After five years, 32.2% of the non-drinkers and 22% of the drinkers had cataracts. Of those who imbibed, beer drinkers faced the highest risk, followed by hard liquor drinkers and red wine drinkers. White wine was not included in the study because, as the researchers noted, it is not commonly consumed in Iceland, where the investigation took place.
After accounting for age, smoking habits, diabetes and other factors, the researchers found moderate wine drinkers reduced their incidence of developing any kind of cataracts by about 50%, compared to non-drinkers.
While moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a slew of health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, excess drinking is associated with liver problems, high blood pressure and more. And people using some medications, including blood thinners and some kinds of antibiotics and pain relievers, people with liver or pancreatic disease and some other conditions may need to abstain. If you aren't sure, talk to your doctor.