Purpose: Coffee is a widely consumed beverage. While recent studies have linked its intake to a reduced risk of cataracts, caffeine is believed to be the key factor for its effect. To know how roasting beans affects the effect of coffee on cataract formation, we investigated the impact roasting using a selenite-induced cataract rat model. Materials and Methods: Sprague Dawley rats were given a single injection of sodium selenite, which induced formation of nuclear cataracts by day 6, with or without coffee intake (100% coffee, 0.2 mL/day) for following 3 days. Results: The concentrations of glutathione (GSH) and ascorbic acid (AsA) in selenite-induced cataract lenses declined to half that of controls. However, 3 days of coffee intake ameliorated the reduction of GSH and AsA so that concentrations remained at 70–80% that of controls. Roasting enhanced the preventive effect of coffee by further reducing cataract formation and ameliorating selenite-induced reduction of antioxidants. High-performance liquid chromatography analysis revealed degradation of chlorogenic acid and generation of pyrocatechol during the coffee roasting process. We discovered that pyrocatechol, at doses equivalent to that found in dark-roasted coffee, was equally effective as caffeine at reducing cataract formation and ameliorating the reduction of antioxidants. Conclusion: Our results indicate that pyrocatechol, generated during the roasting process, acts as an antioxidant together with caffeine to prevent cataract formation.
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