A Daily Tea Habit May Reduce Glaucoma Risk

Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, is characterized by fluid pressure buildup (intraocular pressure) that damages the optic nerve.

Currently, glaucoma affects 57.5 million people globally, and by 2020 may affect 65.5 million. Individuals with diabetes are at greater risk for developing glaucoma.

Earlier studies indicated caffeine can influence intraocular pressure, but did not compare the effects of decaffeinated and caffeinated drinks on glaucoma risk. So, a group of researchers looked at data from the U.S. 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) because that year the survey included glaucoma eye test information.

The investigators found, of the 1,678 participants who submitted complete eye test results to the NHANES, 84 had developed glaucoma.

The NHANES also queried participants about their consumption of caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks (e.g., soft drinks, teas, coffee), and the data showed those who drank hot tea daily had a lower glaucoma risk. Reduced risk was not linked with coffee (caffeinated or decaf), or with decaffeinated tea, iced tea, or soft drinks.

Since the number of participants with glaucoma was small, and the study was observational no definite cause and effect conclusions were drawn. However, findings suggest the antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and neuro-protective chemicals in tea may defend against the oxidation and neuro-degeneration that leads to glaucoma.

“Further research is needed to establish the importance of these findings and whether hot tea consumption may play a role in the prevention of glaucoma,” wrote the authors.

The study was published online in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Sources: BMJ; Glaucoma.org
Photo credit: Naama ym

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