Evidence-Based Nutrient Recommendations

Vegetarians have Fewer Cataracts in Taiwanese Study

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By Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN

We created a new article to house research on miscellaneous disease rates of vegetarians, including cataracts. The page includes research that we previously reported on, and we also added the following study.

A recent prospective cohort study from Taiwan investigated the association between vegetarian diet and cataract risk (Chiu, 2021). The study analyzed 4,436 participants who were at least 40 years old with no history of cataracts, the majority of whom were Buddhist volunteers (who abstain from smoking and alcohol and are encouraged to eat vegetarian). Participants were followed for an average of 5.7 years. There were 1,341 vegetarians and 3,095 nonvegetarians.

Vegetarians consumed more soy, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin A compared to nonvegetarians. There was no difference in intake of fruits or refined grains between groups. While data were not reported, the authors said dietary supplement use was similar between groups.

A vegetarian diet was associated with a 20% lower risk of cataracts (HR 0.80, CI 0.65-0.99; P=0.04) after adjusting for sex, education, alcohol, smoking, physical activity, comorbidities, body mass index (BMI), and Buddhist volunteer status. When analyzed by BMI, the association between vegetarian diet and cataract risk was significant for participants with a BMI of 24 kg/m2 or greater (HR 0.70, CI 0.50-0.99; P=0.04), but not for those with a BMI less than 24 kg/m2 (HR 0.86, CI 0.65-1.14; P=0.29).

Chiu THT, Chang CC, Lin CL, Lin MN. A Vegetarian Diet Is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cataract, Particularly Among Individuals with Overweight: A Prospective Study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021 Apr;121(4):669-677.e1.

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