Eye Health and Your Vision
How is your Vision?
Has your vision gotten worse over the years?
Do you just blame it on getting older?
Have you let a raccoon in your house, mistaking it for your cat?
How is your night vision?
Do you have dry eyes?
Are your eyes itchy and red?
When was your last eye exam?
Have you been diagnosed with Diabetes?
What about Glaucoma?
Did you know that diet can “make or break” your vision?
Have you heard of Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Lycopene? [you will shortly] ………………….
Let’s face it – Our eyesight is probably our most important sense.
Vision loss and blindness are debilitating and not as rare as some imagine.
The Good News is that most causes are preventable through early detection and treatment.
The BETTER News is that with proper nutrition many of these conditions that lead to vision loss can be prevented altogether.
A Few Factoids:
Cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans.
Glaucoma affects more than 2 million – African Americans over 40 are at greater risk. Glaucoma is 15 times more likely to cause blindness in African Africans than their Caucasian counterparts. Early detection is VERY important. Glaucoma usually responds to treatment. There is a nutritional component, but diagnosis and medical management is a must.
Diabetic Retinopathy affects around half of the 18 million diabetics in America – with yearly exams and early treatment 90% of blindness from diabetes can be prevented. Good news for diabetics- Chromium, a trace mineral has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar, learn about it.
Macular Degeneration affects more than 1.75 million individuals in the United States – Age-related Macular degeneration is far more prevalent among white than among African Americans. Age related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in those 60 and older. Medical evaluation is VERY important. The more serious “wet” variety is treatable with Laser surgery. Nutrition is KEY in both prevention and treatment of Macular Degeneration.
Each of these categories deserves attention and each DO benefit from comprehensive nutrition.
It is not practical to discuss all four in great detail at once.
Macular degeneration is my focus today – especially how diet can prevent and even treat it.
The Macula is the part of the retina where fine focus and vision occurs. The ability to read, to see faces and to do many daily activities all rely on the macula working properly. As you can imagine there is a scale from mild to severe dysfunction. The earlier the intervention, the better.
And you guess it ! Nutrition can help – let’s look the players
Several nutrients are essential for normal eyesight and macula function.
Zinc is important for the macula [remember to take some copper with zinc]. In a study at the Department of Ophthalmology at the Utah School of Medicine 151 patients were given either 100mg of zinc or a placebo [Newsome DA, et al. – 1988]. Those in the zinc group had significantly less loss of vision.
Selenium – a trace mineral and an important anti-oxidant is crucial as well. Scientists hypothesize that macular generation is caused by damage from free radicals – selenium can help prevent this type of damage.
Three carotenoids are very important for the eyes – Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Lycopene. The Macula owes its yellow color to a high concentration of Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A [retinol] also play important roles.
Vitamin C and its associates, the Bioflavonoids, play an important role in retinal health.
Taurine, a sulfonic acid that naturally occurs in the body in limited amounts, can stabilize and protect the retina. A shortage or deficiency of Taurine damages the retina in animals and people alike. Conversely, it protects the retina and macula. Some physicians have used intravenous Taurine with dramatic improvement of Macular Degeneration.
Causes and Risks:
The risks for Macular Degeneration include – Aging, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and Smoking.
In one study a group of 31,843 female Registered Nurses who smoked more than 25 cigarettes per day had over twice as many cases of Macular Degeneration than non-smokers.
Interestingly, past smokers had to wait 15 years for their risk to return to levels seen in the control [non-smoker] group.
The same things that prevent atherosclerosis [hardening if the arteries] can help prevent Macular Degeneration.
Anti-oxidant formulas have been shown to halt or even reverse Macular Degeneration.
Studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in green, leafy as well as colorful vegetables, colorful fruits and fish have a lower risk of developing Macular degeneration.
Where are these vital Carotenoids found in nature? [Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Lycopene]
To answer this question…….
Here is an abstract from a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. ……………………………………………..
Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes.
O. Sommerburg, J. Keunen, A. Bird, and F. J G M van Kuijk.
BACKGROUND—It has been suggested that eating green leafy vegetables, which are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, may decrease the risk for age related macular degeneration. The goal of this study was to analyse various fruits and vegetables to establish which ones contain lutein and/or zeaxanthin and can serve as possible dietary supplements for these carotenoids.
METHODS—Homogenates of 33 fruits and vegetables, two fruit juices, and egg yolk were used for extraction of the carotenoids with hexane. Measurement of the different carotenoids and their isomers was carried out by high performance liquid chromatography using a single column with an isocratic run, and a diode array detector.
RESULTS—Egg yolk and maize (corn) contained the highest mole percentage (% of total) of lutein and zeaxanthin (more than 85% of the total carotenoids). Maize was the vegetable with the highest quantity of lutein (60% of total) and orange pepper was the vegetable with the highest amount of zeaxanthin (37% of total). Substantial amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin (30-50%) were also present in kiwi fruit, grapes, spinach, orange juice, zucchini (or vegetable marrow), and different kinds of squash. The results show that there are fruits and vegetables of various colours with a relatively high content of lutein and zeaxanthin.
CONCLUSIONS—Most of the dark green leafy vegetables, previously recommended for a higher intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, have 15-47% of lutein, but a very low content (0-3%) of zeaxanthin. Our study shows that fruits and vegetables of various colours can be consumed to increase dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin.
As stated above, there are excellent food sources of the carotenes.
Yet another reason to eat your veggies, And Eggs !
As you clearly see [hopefully] the carotenoids are important but easy to miss if your diet is lacking proper diversity.
Dietary supplements are available to help us achieve a proper balance of these important nutrients.
The best way to prevent Macular Degeneration is through diet.
Try to eat a wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables.
I recommend Juicing or Blending to complement your diet.
When the diet falls short, dietary supplementation is necessary.
Smoking is a major risk factor for Macular Degeneration – QUIT Smoking.
Many well done studies show that anti-oxidants help prevent Macular Degeneration.
Taking dietary supplements are a good idea.
Macular Degeneration management requires medical supervision with regular exams and monitoring.
Consider a Taurine supplement. Start with 1,000mg twice a day or 2,000mg divided day and night. [People with stomach or duodenal ulcers should use caution as Taurine increases stomach acid slightly – most have no side effects.]
Taking supplemental Zinc is a good idea for most people. [Be sure that your zinc product also contains copper – to avoid a secondary copper deficiency.]
Selenium helps protect the macula. [It is included in most multiple vitamins and in some vitamin E preparations – separate supplements are usually not needed.]
Vitamin A with associated carotenes is a good choice.
2-4 grams of vitamin C with rose hips per day is a good idea. [I prefer capsule versions – chewable products can damage the enamel of teeth, aka mottling of teeth. Divide your doses of vitamin C – don’t take more than 2,000 mg per dose – vitamin C has no toxicity, one of the only side effects is loose stools.]
Taking a B Complex is another good idea to protect against free radical damage.
Vitamin E [natural version only] at 400iu to 800iu per day makes a lot of sense. Vitamin C and vitamin E work together.
An Omega 3 supplement supports eye health.
As I always Remind you…
To achieve full spectrum nutrition we all need to supplement our diets.
Supplements to consider:
1) Get a good multiple vitamin/mineral product. Versions with “Chelated” minerals are best. I also like those with some plant based vitamins.
2) Take a quality Calcium product. Look for MCHA as the calcium source and one that includes Magnesium, vitamin D and some assorted trace minerals.
3) Take Omega 3 oils. Flax oil is the best to start. Adding Krill or fish oil later [BTW – Krill oil in the container has a distinctive odor – if you place 3-4 desiccant packs in the bottle and refrigerate it, the odor is gone in 12 hours]
4) Find a good Colloidal mineral product for trace minerals. Make sure it’s from Humic shale and NOT ionic minerals. Humic shale is the “fossilized” remains of the dinosaur days. Plant based colloidal minerals are 98% absorbed.
As always, feel free to comment or message questions or concerns.