People who partake in low-to-moderate alcohol consumption, specifically red wine, may be at a lower risk of cataract surgery, a new study suggests.

The study enrolled 469,387 participants of the UK Biobank who were about 56 years old and 23,162 participants of the EPIC-Norfolk investigation who were roughly 59 years old. The UK Biobank subjects self-reported their alcohol consumption at baseline, and the EPIC-Norfolk subjects responded to a food frequency questionnaire. The investigators considered the associations of alcohol consumption with incident cataract surgery, adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, Townsend deprivation index, body mass index, smoking and diabetes.

In the UK Biobank group, the researchers identified 19,011 cases of cataract surgery with a follow-up of about 95 months. The EPIC Norfolk study group had 4,573 subjects who had incident cataract surgery with a follow-up of roughly 193 months.

Compared with those who abstained from alcohol, drinkers in both study groups were less likely to undergo cataract surgery after adjusting for covariables. Among alcohol consumers, greater alcohol consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cataract surgery in the EPIC Norfolk participants.

“The mechanism via which alcoholic beverages may protect against cataract development is not clear,” the study authors wrote in their paper. “While the fact that some degree of association was present for all types of alcohol beverage suggests that alcohol itself is mediating any potential effect, our observation of strongest associations among wine drinkers, and especially red wine drinkers, also suggests that other components of alcoholic beverages may be contributing.”

Chua SYL, Luben RN, Hayat S, et al. Alcohol consumption and incident cataract surgery in two large UK cohorts. Ophthalmology. February 8, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].