Organic Coffee and Glaucoma

Is there a relationship between organic coffee and glaucoma? A scientific study recently published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science reports a relationship between long term caffeine intake and a type of glaucoma. To the extent that one drinks a lot of healthy organic coffee there may be a relationship between organic coffee and glaucoma. But just what specifically does that mean? Let us start by looking at the scientific study in question.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is elevated pressure inside the eye. Elevated pressure causes damage to the optic nerve and, untreated, can lead to blindness. There are a number of ways that the pressure inside the eye goes up. The second most common is from a condition known as exfoliation glaucoma. In this condition cells from the eye come loose (exfoliate) and plug the ducts where fluid drains from the eye thus causing a higher pressure. This is a treatable condition if the condition is found before eye damage occurs. What is recommended is that one goes routinely to the eye doctor every year or so and has his or her intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye) measured.

Association between Caffeine and Glaucoma

The researchers looked at data from long term studies of male and female health professionals. Of the individuals who did not have glaucoma when they entered the study a number developed exfoliation glaucoma over the years. The study recorded things like number of cups of coffee consumed each day. Out of roughly 120,000 people in the study there were 360 cases of exfoliation glaucoma. Researchers compared those who did not drink coffee with those who drank three or more cups a day and found that the coffee drinkers had a statistically significant higher risk of the disease. The risk was increased further in women and women with a family history of glaucoma. The risk increase was about fifty percent. The researchers found an association between coffee glaucoma but not other caffeinated beverages and glaucoma. They did not specifically test the relationship of organic coffee and glaucoma.

However, the study did not report an association between visual loss and coffee consumption!

Why?

Previous studies have indicated that high coffee consumption can be related to a higher incidence of glaucoma. Scandinavians, who are high coffee consumers, have more than the usual number of cases of exfoliation glaucoma. The current working hypothesis is that coffee increases levels of a chemical, homocysteine, in the eye. People with exfoliation glaucoma tend to have high homocysteine levels in their eyes.

So What?

Organic coffee antioxidants have been touted as the reason that people who drink a lot of coffee have less diabetes, colon cancer, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer and certain heart problems. Now do we have to worry that in order to get the good benefits of coffee that we need to run the risk of blindness? As the study notes there has been not clear indication that loss of vision relates to high coffee intake. Certainly if one gets his or her eyes checked routinely and the doctor finds exfoliation glaucoma the condition can be treated. Also please note that the incidence of exfoliation glaucoma in the study group was 360 cases out of 120,000 people. That is three out of every thousand people. The incidence of Type II diabetes in the USA is 8 out of every 100 people. It is important in cases such as this to put things in perspective.


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