Eating legumes, tomatoes, apples and pears was significantly associated with a reduced risk of cataract.

Eating legumes, tomatoes, apples and pears was significantly associated with a reduced risk of cataract. Photo: Alan G. Kabat, OD. Click image to enlarge. 

While it’s not surprising that an increase in plant-based food may lead to increased overall health, a recently published study in Eye reported an association between increased fruit and vegetable intake with lower risk of cataract. 

The prospective cohort study included more than 72,000 participants with no cataracts from the UK Biobank. Researchers gathered dietary data using an online 24-hour questionnaire between 2009 and 2012. Cataract development was defined through self-report or hospital inpatient records through 2021.

During the follow-up period (mean: 9.1 years), about 8% of participants developed cataract. The researchers determined that a higher fruit and vegetable intake was significantly associated with a lower risk of cataract, after adjusting for several demographic, medical and lifestyle covariates. They broke down the food categories further, finding that legumes significantly reduced cataract risk, along with tomatoes, apples and pears. Cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, berries, citrus and melon were not significantly associated with reduced risk.

Interestingly, the researchers found that smokers benefited more from eating fruits and vegetables than former smokers or those who had never smoked. Men were also reported to benefit more from a higher vegetable intake than women.

“We provided a high level of evidence that higher intake of fruits and vegetables was beneficial regarding cataract risk,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “These findings underscore the need to educate both doctors and patients to pay more attention to dietary factors and recommend fruit and vegetable consumption for better cataract management.”

Fan H, Han X, Shang X, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cataract: insights from the UK Biobank study. Eye (Lond). March 27, 2023. [Epub ahead of print].