ATHENS, Greece — Caffeine accumulates in the lens capsule and epithelial cells after oral intake and may be a potential ally in the prevention of cataract, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons Winter Meeting.
The lens is constantly subject to oxidative stress, mainly from UV radiation, and experimental and observational data suggest that antioxidants might play a role in retarding opacification.
“During the 1990s, the antioxidant properties of caffeine were proven in studies. Caffeine was shown to have a protective effect against UV radiation comparable to sun blockers and higher than vitamins E and C,” Manuel Ruiss, MD, said.
Despite the evidence of the anti-cataractogenic effect of caffeine, little is known about the pharmacokinetics of caffeine in the human lens.
A study carried out at the Vienna Institute for Research in Ocular Surgery investigated if peroral caffeine intake leads to caffeine accumulation in the human lens capsule and lens epithelial cells. Forty patients scheduled for bilateral cataract surgery abstained from caffeine from 1 week before surgery. On the day of the second eye surgery, they were randomly assigned to receive no caffeine or 60 mg, 120 mg or 180 mg of caffeine, which corresponded to one, two or three espressos. After capsulorrhexis, lens capsule tissue of each eye was sent to the lab for analysis of caffeine concentration.
“Seven patients had to be excluded because they did not resist a good cup of coffee,” Ruiss said.
Tissue analysis showed that coffee intake before cataract surgery increases caffeine levels in the lens capsule in a dose-dependent manner.
“Why is this important? Because there are epidemiological finding saying that caffeine has a positive effect on the prevention of cataract,” Ruiss said.
In a study published in Clinical Ophthalmology in 2016, it was shown that the incidence of cataract blindness was significantly lower in groups consuming higher amounts of coffee. In another study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, a diet rich in antioxidants, including coffee, was inversely associated with the risk for cataract in middle-aged and elderly women. – by Michela Cimberle
Rautiainen S, et al. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2014;doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.6241.
Ruiss M, et al. Assessing the pharmacokinetics of caffeine in the lens epithelium after peroral intake. Presented at: ESCRS Winter Meeting; Feb. 15-17, 2019; Athens, Greece.
Varma SD. Clin Ophthalmol. 2016;doi:10.2147/OPTH.S96394.
Disclosure: Ruiss reports no relevant financial disclosures.