High-vitamin diets containing beta-carotene reduce risks of cataract formation

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Women who ate large amounts of vegetables rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C were successful in reducing their risk of developing cataracts, according to a team of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, Massachusetts.

In a study of over 50,000 female nurses, those in the highest fifth of total beta-carotene/vitamin A intake had a 39% lower risk of cataract formation compared to women who ingested the least amount, including vitamin C.

Spinach was singled out as particularly protective against the eye ailment, Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., a spokesman for the team noted. Carrots, he said, the richest source of beta-carotene, were surpassed by spinach for effectiveness.

Dr. Stampfer speculated that the high intake of antioxidant-rich vegetables protect the eyes because the oxidation of proteins in the lens lead to the formation of cataracts.

The researchers also determined that long-term use of vitamin C supplements offered protective benefits, while the use of multi-vitamins (containing small quantities of vitamins C and beta-carotene) did not.

Among the conclusions offered by the Boston researchers is that the use of vegetables like spinach, sweet potatoes, and squash should be maintained daily.

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