Researchers in Vienna have noted a protective effect of caffeine consumption on ultraviolet radiation (UVR)–induced apoptosis in lens epithelial cells in vitro. They believe their findings back results from other epidemiological studies that also reported a protective effect of caffeine consumption on age-related cataract.

The study enrolled 20 patients who underwent cataract surgery in both eyes and abstained from caffeine for two weeks, starting one week prior to surgery of the first eye. The second eye was scheduled one week after the first. On the day of the second procedure, patients were given coffee containing 180mg of caffeine shortly before surgery. A team transferred lens capsules containing epithelial cells, which were harvested after capsulorhexis, to a culture dish and immediately exposed them to UVR. They then analyzed the apoptotic lens epithelial cells by TUNEL staining 24 hours after UVR exposure.

While the researchers detected TUNEL-positive cells in UVR-exposed lens capsules both after caffeine intake and in controls, epithelial cells after caffeine intake showed significantly less TUNEL staining than cells without caffeine intake.

The study pointed out that other antioxidant compounds of coffee might have boosted the protective effect of caffeine. Nevertheless, the authors concluded that caffeine might have a significant impact on delaying the onset of age-related cataract and recommended further epidemiological studies to confirm their findings.

Kronschläger M, Ruiß M, Dechat T, et al. Single high-dose peroral caffeine intake inhibits ultraviolet radiation-induced apoptosis in human lens epithelial cells in vitro. Acta Ophthalmol. October 30, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].