Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: a 2015 study found a link between some dietary B vitamins and a lower risk of cataracts (cloudiness or opacity in the lens of the eye that impairs vision). The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, initially looked at data from 3,115 food intake surveys from men and women (ages 55 to 80) enrolled in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. Researchers also took photographs of the participants’ eyes at the beginning of the study and annually for an average of almost ten years. These photographs allowed the researchers to identify the presence of cataracts in the nuclear (central) and cortical (outer edge) regions of the lens. After controlling for various known risk factors for cataracts, here's what the researchers discovered:
Participants with high dietary intake of riboflavin (B2) and B12 were less likely to already have nuclear and cortical lens opacities at the beginning of the study compared with participants with lower intakes.
Participants with the highest intake of B2 had a 22% lower risk of mild nuclear cataract, a 38% lower risk of moderate nuclear cataract, and a 20% lower risk of mild cortical cataract, when compared with participants with the lowest intake.
Participants with the highest intake of B12 had a 22% lower risk of mild nuclear cataract, a 38% lower risk of moderate nuclear cataract, and a 23% lower risk of mild cortical cataract, when compared with participants with the lowest intake.
Participants with the highest intake of vitamin B6 were 33% less likely to develop moderate nuclear cataracts during the course of the study than those with the lowest intake.
While this study is observational, and more research is needed to establish that B vitamins directly affect eye health, it does validate previous research associating dietary intake of B vitamins with a lower risk of cataracts. It’s also exciting news for those at risk for cataracts because it’s easy to include B vitamin-rich foods in your diet—dairy, eggs, fish, lentils, leafy greens, and bananas are just some of the many good sources of B vitamins.