Help Prevent Cataracts with Turmeric

Prevent cataracts naturally.

Could the antioxidant compounds in turmeric help prevent cataracts? Some studies suggest they can. A cataract makes the lens of the eye opaque. Lenses are mostly made of crystalline protein fibers and enzymes. Excess free radicals break the bonds in the lens fibers. These breaks cause the proteins to clump into opaque spots that replace the normally crystal-clear lens. (viii.62-63)

Did you know cataracts are the leading cause of blindness? Incidence of cataracts generally increases with age, but research suggests healthy habits and nutrients (including turmeric) may delay their formation or progression. (viii.62)

Symptoms of Cataracts

Besides overall reduced vision, the most common symptoms of cataract formation are problems with seeing objects clearly at a distance or sensitivity to glare that interferes with vision. Other symptoms include: (viii.62)

  • Blurred and/or double vision.
  • Difficulty seeing while driving at night.
  • Trouble with depth perception.

Causes and Risk Factors of Cataracts

Trauma and heredity can cause or contribute to cataracts. However, they are typically associated with aging, and decades of accumulated damage to eyes. The good news is that cataracts are not inevitable. Many factors contribute to increased risk of cataract formation, and can be categorized by type: (viii.626576-77)

Table VIII.3: Types of Cataracts and Causes
  • Chemical burns.
  • Occupational exposure to radiation (such as from welding without protective glasses).
  • Total body irradiation over a short time (e.g., from massive environmental exposure, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdowns).
  • If mother had German measles while pregnant.
  • Smoking.
  • Environmental toxins (such as lead).
  • Medications (such as long term aspirin and steroids).

Having diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing cataracts and at a younger age. According to one study, even non-diabetics who have higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels could be facing double the risk of developing a certain type of cataract (as compared to those with normal fasting glucose levels). Other research indicates that the greater length of time a person is diabetic and higher blood sugar levels are both associated with increased risk of cataracts. The link between diabetes and cataract risk may also be exacerbated by UV light(viii.6278-79)

How Can Turmeric Help?

Many of the compounds in turmeric can help counteract the lifestyle and other health factors that can promote cataracts, and may help stop or limit their formation. This includes supporting cardiovascular health, controlling blood sugar levels, and boosting liver function which integrative medicine experts also suggest can also keep eyes healthy. Further studies also show that the anti-aging effects of calorie restriction (CR), which some of the compounds in turmeric mimic, can help delay formation of cataracts. (viii.3461-62)

Table VIII.4: Anti-Cataract Effects of Turmeric Compounds
Alpha-linolenic acid (viii.46)
Caffeic acid (viii.22)
Cinnamic acid (viii.22)
Curcumin (viii.22)
  • Mimics calorie restriction's anti-cataract effects. (viii.61)
  • Anti-inflammatory effects in the cornea. (81)
  • Natural antioxidant levels in an animal model for diabetes and cataracts. (63) (81)
  • Free radicals(viii.61)
  • AGEs(viii.61)
  • Aldose reductase levels, an enzyme that can promote cataracts, in an animal model for diabetes(viii.63)
  • Cataract progression in animal model for diabetes. (viii.63)
  • Abnormal blood vessel growth in cornea. (viii.81)
  • Toxic damage from nicotine(viii.66)
  • In an animal study using galactose to induce cataracts in rats, only very low levels of curcumin were helpful. Levels equal to or higher than 0.01% were actually detrimental. The researchers note that galactose-induced cataracts are different than those caused by diabetes. (viii.63)
Ferulic acid (viii.82)
Myricetin (viii.40)
  • Aldose reductase, an enzyme that can promote cataracts. (viii.6384)
  • Cataract formation in diabetic animals. (viii.80)
Niacin (viii.46)
  • Cataract formation. (viii.62)
Protocatechuic acid (viii.39)
  • Aldose reductase, an enzyme that can promote cataracts. (viii.83)
Quercetin (viii.40)
Resveratrol (viii.50)
Rho-coumaric (viii.22)
Riboflavin (viii.46)
Thiamine (viii.46)
  • Cataract formation. (viii.62)
(whole; dietary)
  • Mimics CR's anti-cataract effects. (viii.61)
  • Natural antioxidant levels in an animal model for diabetes and cataracts. (viii.63)
  • Aldose reductase levels, an enzyme that can promote cataracts, in an animal model for diabetes(viii.63)
  • Cataract progression in animal model for diabetes better than curcumin. (viii.63)
  • Turmeric extract is one of the ingredients in a multiherbal eye-drop (Itone™), shown in animal studies to have significant anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic activity. Five of the 8 compounds shown to penetrate the cornea are known turmeric compounds. (viii.22404664)
Vanillic acid (viii.22)
  • Aldose reductase (cataract-promoting enzyme). (viii.2683)
Vitamin C (viii.46)
  • Protects lens from UV radiation(viii.80)
  • Cataract formation by 20-60%, according to some studies (but not the AREDS trial). (viii.62)
Vitamin E (viii.46)
  • Protects lens from UV radiation(viii.80)
  • Cataract formation in animal studies and some clinical studies (but not the AREDS trial). (viii.628085)
Development of new malformed blood vessels. (viii.81)
Advanced glycation end products, which are protein clumps that cause opacification. (viii.61-62)

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