Low to moderate consumption of alcohol, especially wine, may reduce the risk of incident cataract requiring surgery, according to research published in Ophthalmology.

By conducting the largest longitudinal observational study on the association between alcohol consumption and cataract surgery incidence, the researchers sought to identify any modifiable risk factors and additional treatment strategies for age-related cataract. 

The researchers asked 2 study cohorts from The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) and United Kingdom (UK) Biobank to self-report their alcohol intake: the former with a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and the latter according to 6 frequency categories. They gathered incident cataract surgery data from hospital records and excluded participants who had undergone cataract surgery up to 1 year from baseline and those who self-reported cataract at baseline. Demographic data, smoking status, diabetes status, BMI, and level of physical activity were also collected.


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The risk of surgery was compared between alcohol drinkers and nondrinkers, and according to types and amount of alcohol intake.

Of the 23,162 EPIC-Norfolk participants, 4573 underwent cataract surgery during the mean follow-up time of 193 months. In the mean follow-up time of 95 months for the 469,387 UK Biobank participants, 19,011 underwent the surgery.

Adjusting for covariables, drinkers were less likely to undergo cataract surgery in EPIC-Norfolk (HR 0.90, 95% CI 0.84 to 0.97, P =.004) and UK Biobank (HR 0.89, 95% CI 0.85-0.93, P <.001).

Among the EPIC-Norfolk cohort, the risk of surgery was inversely associated with alcohol consumption (P <.001). The risk of surgery decreased with increased wine consumption; consumption in the second tertile and third tertile had 19% and 23% lower risk of incident cataract, respectively. When researchers conducted multivariable-adjusted analysis, the third and highest quartiles of alcohol intake had 14% and 18% lower risk of surgery compared with those in the lowest quartile of alcohol intake, 

Among UK Biobank participants, those who drank 1 to 2 times and 3 to 4 times weekly had 7% and 6% lower risk of surgery, respectively, compared with participants who drank 1-3 times or less per month. The participants who consumed alcohol 1 to 4 times per week had a 6% (95% CI 1.02, 1.12, P =.010) lower risk of surgery than those who drank daily and 5% (95% CI 1.00, 1.10, P =.05) lower risk than those who drank almost daily. Regardless of consumption levels, wine consumers had a 14% lower risk of surgery compared with non-drinkers. Wine/champagne consumers had at least a 10% lower risk of surgery.

Self-reported cataract was associated with incident cataract surgery in both cohorts (P <.001). When the researchers included participants with self-reported cataract, drinkers were less likely to undergo surgery in both EPIC-Norfolk (P =.005) and UK Biobank (P =.003).

Limitations of the study included that self-reporting alcohol intake may involve misclassification bias. Also, cataract development may have preceded exposure assessment of alcohol intake. There also may have been residual confounding factors.

Disclosure: Several study authors declared affiliations with the biotech or pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.

Reference

Chua SYL, Luben RN, Hayat S, et al. Alcohol consumption and incident cataract surgery in two large UK cohorts. Ophthalmol. Published online February 8, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2021.02.007