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In case you needed one more reason to drink your daily coffee, research funded by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology and carried out at Cornell University just came up with a whopper. According to a new report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a daily cup of coffee may help prevent retinal damage that causes deteriorating eyesight due to glaucoma, aging and diabetes.
The retina is the most metabolically active tissue in the body. It requires oxygen to perform its functions properly, but inadequate oxygen and free radicals in the body can damage the tissue over time.
The researchers treated the eyes of mice with nitric oxide to simulate the retinal damage done by oxidation and free radicals. Some of the mice were pre-treated with chlorogenic acid, a group of organic acids naturally found in coffee. The eyes of the mice that were treated with chlorogenic acid showed none of the expected retinal damage from the oxidative stress induced by the nitric oxide.
The researchers will be continuing their study of caffeine and its effects on retinal damage. Their next step is to determine whether coffee can assist in getting chlorogenic acid directly to the retina.
This is especially interesting news for coffee drinkers because earlier research had suggested that heavy coffee drinkers might be at a higher risk for glaucoma. Further research showed that while more than 200 mg of caffeine increases intraocular eye pressure, a primary risk factor in glaucoma, the association between coffee and IOP was statistically insignificant once adjustments were made for age, sex and systolic blood pressure.
Other recent research suggests that caffeine in coffee may help prevent cataracts from forming. Nearly half the cases of blindness in the world are caused by cataracts. Not many years ago, cataracts often led to permanent blindness. Nowadays, surgery can remove the cataracts and restore vision in most cases. The new research, however, may pave the way for strategies that prevent cataracts from forming, rendering the surgery unnecessary.
The cataract study was conducted at the University of Maryland Medical School. The researchers fed baby rats on a diet high in galactalose, a chemical that causes cataracts to form. One group of rats were treated with eyedrops containing caffeine. Another group was treated with placebo eyedrops. The group treated with caffeine showed significantly less cataract formation than the control group. The cataracts are similar to those that most commonly form in adults with diabetes.