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Antioxidant vitamins in cataract prevention

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Summary

The ocular lens, which is continually exposed to light and ambient oxygen, is at high risk of photooxidative damage resulting in cataract. Oxygen free radicals appear to impair not only lens crystallins which will aggregate and precipitate forming opacities but also proteolytic enzymes whose function it would be to eliminate the damaged proteins. Apart from an enzymatic defense system consisting of superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase against excited oxygen species the lens contains the antioxidant vitamins C, E and presumably β-carotene as another line of defense. In vitro and in vivo studies in different animal species have demonstrated a significant protective effect of vitamins C and E against light-induced cataract. Sugar and steroid cataracts were prevented as well. Epidemiological evidence in humans suggests that persons with comparatively higher intakes or blood concentrations of antioxidant vitamins are at a reduced risk of cataract development. These positive findings established by several research groups justify extensive intervention trials with antioxidant vitamins in humans using presenile cataract development as a model.

Zusammenfassung

Die Augenlinse kann durch einfallendes Licht und Sauerstoff photooxidativ so geschädigt werden, daß eine Trübung bzw. ein Katarakt entsteht. Sauerstoffradikale schädigen nicht nur die Kristalline, spezialisierte Linsenproteine, die Aggregate bilden und präzipitieren, sondern sie greifen auch proteolytische Enzyme an, deren Funktion es wäre, die geschädigten Proteine zu eliminieren. Neben einem enzymatischen Abwehrsystem gegen Sauerstoffradikale, bestehend aus Superoxiddismutase, Katalase und Glutathionperoxidase, enthält die Linse die antioxidativen Vitamine C und E und evtl. Betakarotin. Tierversuche an verschiedenen Spezies haben sowohl in vitro als auch in vivo eine Schutzwirkung gegen lichtinduzierte Kataraktbildung aufgezeigt. Eine ähnliche Wirkung war gegen Zucker- und Steroidkatarakte nachweisbar. Epidemiologische Studien am Menschen haben gezeigt, daß Personen mit vergleichsweise höherer Einnahme bzw. höheren Blutkonzentrationen antioxidativer Vitamine ein vermindertes Risiko der Kataraktbildung haben. Diese positiven Befunde rechtfertigen die Durchführung breit angelegter Interventionsstudien mit antioxidativen Vitaminen am Menschen.

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Herrn Prof. Dr. med. Karl Heinz Bässler zum 65. Geburtstag gewidmet.

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Gerster, H. Antioxidant vitamins in cataract prevention. Z Ernährungswiss 28, 56–75 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02025566

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