UK Study: Alcohol Consumption and Cataract Risk

Published: December 20, 2021

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A research study conducted in England found that low to moderate alcohol use is associated with a lower risk of cataracts, the cloudy patches on the eye that impair sight. The research was conducted by a team in London from NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.(1)

The study relied on data from over 490,000 in the well-established UK Biobank and EPIC-Norfolk cohort studies, in which participants volunteer to be followed throughout their lives, giving detailed information about their health, habits and lifestyles. “Due to the large amounts of linked data spanning many years, these studies are particularly valuable for detecting environmental factors associated with disease development and progression.”(2)

Researchers found that drinkers who consumed up to 14 units (equating to about 6.5 standard glasses of wine) per week were less likely to undergo cataract surgery. Wine drinkers showed the most significant reduction. “For example, participants who drank wine five or more times per week were 23% less likely than non-drinkers to undergo cataract surgery in the EPIC Norfolk study, and 14% less likely in the UK Biobank study. However, participants with high beer, cider, or spirits consumption had no significantly reduced risk.”(2)

The findings support other research that indicates there are health benefits to red wine and diets rich in antioxidants. “Further studies are needed to clarify and analyze the direct role of alcohol in cataract development,” stated the lead researcher in the study.(3)

Another author commenting on the study results said: “Cataract development may be due to gradual damage from oxidative stress during aging. The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are especially abundant in red wine.”(2)

(1) Chua, S. PhD, Luben, R. PhD, Hayat, S. PhD, et. al., Ophthalmology, Alcohol Consumption and Incident Cataract Surgery in Two Large UK Cohorts,
(2) University College London, Low to Moderate Alcohol Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Cataracts,
(3) Delaney-Gesing, A., Ophthalmology Times, Wine Consumption May Prevent Cataracts, Study Finds,