Eye_Health_cover

Real Eyes

  • How “Blue Light” Affects Our Vision
  • How Sugar Impacts It
  • How Diet & Supplements Help
  • How We Can Avoid Vision Problems Now And, Into The Future

80% Of Adults Suffer From Digital Eye Strain. Look Inside…

We live in a time of great change. Our electronic devices have much to do with this. The Vision Council has reported that 60% of adults are exposed to high-energy blue light from digital screens more than five hours daily.

Vision declines with age. Ironically, as we approach 2020, the new question is “How early will our vision be impacted?”

Regardless, if you’ve reached midlife without glasses, mind this: Harvard Medical School’s The Aging Eye reports that by age 65 nearly everyone’s eyes are affected by aging. Currently, nearly everybody wears glasses by age fifty.

Plus, our eyes age faster than the rest of us. Thus, eye problems can warn of health concerns. For example, tiny blood vessels in the eyes are affected first when the arteries begin to clog or weaken — the “canary” of heart disease.

And, the eye needs the same care as the heart – a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. As with heart disease, clinical evidence suggests that progressive visual loss can be prevented and, in some cases, even reversed.

This issue of Nutrition News is devoted to specific nutrition that can help save our sight. How we care for our eyes is reflected in what they will show us – throughout our lives.

Eye_Health_cover

TOPIC: EYE HEALTH

As people are increasingly exposed to high energy blue light, new vision problems are emerging. Blue light is produced by the screens of our electronic devices, by energy-efficient lighting, and by sunlight itself. Awareness of blue light and its effects on vision is growing among both lay persons and eye care professionals.

Real Eyes

• How “Blue Light” Affects Our Vision

• How Sugar Impacts It 

• How Diet & Supplements Help

• How We Can Avoid Vision Problems Now

   And, Into The Future

80% Of Adults Suffer From Digital Eye Strain. Look Inside…

We live in a time of great change. Our electronic devices have much to do with this. The Vision Council has reported that 60% of adults are exposed to high-energy blue light from digital screens more than five hours daily.

   Vision declines with age. Ironically, as we approach 2020, the new question is “How early will our vision be impacted?” Regardless, if you’ve reached midlife without glasses, mind this: Harvard Medical School’s The Aging Eye reports that by age 65 nearly everyone’s eyes are affected by aging. Currently, nearly everybody wears glasses by age fifty.

   Plus, our eyes age faster than the rest of us. Thus, eye problems can warn of health concerns. For example, tiny blood vessels in the eyes are affected first when the arteries begin to clog or weaken — the “canary” of heart disease. And, the eye needs the same care as the heart – a healthy, wholesome lifestyle. As with heart disease, clinical evidence suggests that progressive visual loss can be prevented and, in some cases, even reversed. 

   This issue of Nutrition News is devoted to specific nutrition that can help save our sight. How we care for our eyes is reflected in what they will show us – throughout our lives.

S

urprisingly, distance vision commonly declines during childhood. Many years later, at around 35, near vision begins to deteriorate, making it difficult to read. At about 50, middle vision, used for working at the computer and watching television is the last to go. Eye diseases such as cataract, macular degeneration, and glaucoma may develop with further age. As with the growing incidence of diabetes and obesity in the young, eye specialists now report larger numbers of younger patients with “age related” eye diseases.

  A study sponsored by the National Eye Institute (of the NIH) states that the major contributors to serious eye disorders are dietary deficiencies, smoking, overexposure to environmental hazards (ultraviolet radiation, toxic chemicals, and pollution), and genetic predisposition. Three of these are directly within our control. Even the best genetics cannot guarantee protection from progressive eye disease without our attention to the other three.

Substantial headway in treatment and prevention of eye problems comes from simply improving diet, adding nutritional supplements, and staying out of harm’s way. Although one survey has shown that consumers overwhelmingly believe that specific foods can protect the eye, fewer than one person in five eats them. Even fewer realize that high intakes of processed foods such as sugar, white flour, and white rice are responsible for the development of common vision problems. Called focus distortions, these are near-sightedness (myopia), blurry vision (astigmatism), and far-sightedness (presbyopia). 

Refined sugar is one of the most hazardous foods for our eyes. Eating sugar can lead to hyperinsulinemia, too much insulin in the blood. This condition is associated with the three major eye diseases — cataract, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. It is also associated with the diabetic eye disease, called        

diabetic retinopathy.

Supplement Your Eyes 

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t Nutrition News, we recommend a daily supplement program which includes a multivitamin-mineral formula, additional vitamins C, D, E, and K2, plus calcium-magnesium, fish oils, and an immune enhancer, such as mushrooms or an adaptogen. Several studies have shown that multis protect against eye disease. The famous Physicians Health Study which includes nearly 18,000 doctors, has shown that those taking multivitamin-mineral formulas had a 27 percent decreased risk of developing cataracts. Vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, the B vitamins (particularly B2, riboflavin), and the minerals zinc and selenium have all been reported to help preserve eye health. 

Several novel supplements are also particularly good for of the eyes. They are N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), the amino acid taurine, alpha-lipoic acid, MSM (a popular dietary form of sulfur), and the herb milk thistle (silymarin, for liver support). These nutrients are important because they help to increase glutathione levels.

Glutathione is a non-essential amino acid which is one of the body’s most abundant and powerful antioxidants. Eye fluid itself is rich in glutathione (and in vitamin C). Low levels of glutathione are consistently found in disease states. Keeping glutathione levels high can help to maintain vision as well as overall health. 

N-acetyl-cysteine or NAC: Glutathione is not absorbed well by the digestive tract. The supplement NAC (a  sulfur-based amino acid derivative) is useful to us because it is efficiently used by the body to produce glutathione. Supplement recommendations are 250-500 mg per day.

 Taurine: This sulfur-carrying amino acid is concentrated in the photoreceptor cell layer of the retina. The retina degenerates when the diet is deficient in taurine. The body can make taurine, but studies suggest that blood levels are at least partly dependent on diet. Women especially need taurine because estradiol (one of the estrogens) inhibits taurine synthesis. Take 500-600 mg on an empty stomach.

Alpha lipoic acid: This metabolic coenzyme is found in all living things. When there is enough of it in our bodies, it also functions as an antioxidant. Also sulfur-rich, alpha lipoic has been found to dramatically raise glutathione levels. Take 50-150 mg daily.

MSM: Methylsulphonylmethane is a naturally occurring organic sulphur compound found in all living plant and animal tissues. Follow the instructions on the label. (Bulk powder is the most economical.)

All of the glutathione-supporting nutrients are sulfur based. Foods with lots of sulfur include eggs, garlic, onions, and asparagus.

Every Waking Hour…

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ur eyes are at work. Paradoxically, it is light which makes it possible for our eyes to see, and light which damages them, particularly ultraviolet radiation and high energy blue light. Compounding the paradox, we actually need about 15 minutes of full spectrum light each day to keep our eyes healthy. 

Research has shown that the risk of eye disease is greatly reduced when the diet is packed with antioxidants. The development of eye diseases such as cataract and macular degeneration is ultimately related to free radical damage. Even though the body makes its own antioxidants, we frequently don’t eat adequate raw materials to do the job. Plus, intense exposure to artificial light from indoor jobs and electronic screens, computer monitors, and television screens as well as to external and internal pollutants may assault the eyes beyond the body’s natural ability to 

protect them.

Plants are well-equipped for extreme exposure to sunlight. The very biochemicals that protect plants, protect us when we eat them. Unfortunately, estimates are that only about 12 percent of adult Americans eat enough servings of fruits and vegetables to maintain adequate levels of antioxidant compounds. Many food benefits can be matched and magnified by the use of plant-based antioxidant supplements (called phytonutrients). 

A number of phytonutrients benefit the eyes. Some familiar ones are ginkgo biloba, grape seed extract and bilberry. The last two are from a family that includes darkly colored small fruits like blueberries, cranberries, grapes, and bilberries. Bilberries are European blueberries. They are a richer source of antioxidants because both the skin and the meat of the berry have dark pigments. (American blueberry flesh is nearly translucent.)

Bilberry extract is the premiere bioflavonoid antioxidant for the eyes. In Europe, it has been used in this capacity for many years. Studies have demonstrated its ability to improve night vision, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and diabetic retinopathy. Michael T. Murray, ND, thinks it may also benefit those with glaucoma because of its effects on collagen structures in the eye. It has also been shown to improve visual acuity in healthy individuals. Julian Whitaker, MD, relates that a 1989 study treating cataract patients with both bilberry and vitamin E halted cataract progression in 97 percent of the patients. Interestingly, “day blindness,” a condition in which one sees better by dim than bright light can also be ameliorated with bilberry. The recommended therapeutic dose is 160 mg of standardized extract three times daily.

Everybody knows that carrots are good for the eyes. That is because they are rich in a substance called beta carotene, a carotenoid. Especially effective carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin. Leafy greens like spinach, chard, and collard greens as well as blue-green algae like spirulina have high amounts. Marigold flowers provide the highest amounts of lutein, and these are used for lutein supplements. (The body makes some zeaxanthin from lutein.) Increase your intake of plant-based antioxidants slowly. They can cause gastrointestinal upset.

The vision problems that begin in childhood may be related to diet. Night blindness, the inability to adjust to changes in light intensity (as in a darkened movie theater or the glare of oncoming headlights) is definitely related to diet. This problem is a well-known indicator of vitamin A deficiency. The late Jack Challem, popular nutrition author, recommends the following: Vitamin A, 25,000 IU daily for a month, followed thereafter by 10,000 IU of vitamin A or 25,000 of beta carotene (converted to vitamin A by the body). Pregnant women should limit their vitamin A intake to 10,000 IU daily. Zinc works with vitamin A. Take 15-30 mg daily.

FYI: Poor night vision can also be a sign of blocked arteries.

The Eye Diseases

Cataract

According to the National Eye Institute, half of all people 80 years old or older either have cataract or have had cataract surgery. (MedicineNet.com reports more than 1.5 million cataract surgeries annually in the U.S.) Worldwide, cataract is the leading cause of blindness.

A cataract forms when the lens of the eye begins to lose its transparency due to free radical damage. (Think of a cooking egg white.) The damage interferes with the transmission of the image sent to the retina. The amount of vision loss is directly related to the extent of damage. Cataract surgery (which involves replacing the lens) is so common that it is the largest item in the Medicare budget.

Although both vitamin E and the carotenoids have been found to be important to reducing cataract risk, vitamin C seems to have the greatest impact. Along with glutathione, it is considered one of the most important antioxidants for the eye. A 10 year study of older women (average age 62.5) was conducted by Paul F. Jacques, Sc.D. of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. It showed that the use of vitamin C supplements for more than 10 years was associated with a 77 percent lower prevalence of “early lens opacities.” The women in the sample were taking an average of 300 mg (not a lot by some standards).

According to researchers at Oakland University, Rochester, MI, vitamin C in the eye fluid protects it from ultraviolet radiation and subsequent DNA damage. Another supplement, alpha lipoic acid, is known to protect DNA in the cell nucleus, and has been shown to protect against the formation of cataract in animal studies. Alpha lipoic is found in eye fluid (aqueous humor), and is effective against radiation damage to the lens. 

When taken over time, vitamin E (like vitamin C) has been found to protect against cataract in some research. In a four year study conducted by Cristina Leske, MD, vitamin E supplementation was associated with a cumulative 57 percent cataract risk reduction.1 (People taking multis reduced their risk by 31 percent.) 

Unfortunately, not all vitamin E findings show an effect against cataract. The Office of Dietary Supplements of the NIH states that several observational studies have revealed a potential relationship between vitamin E supplementation and the risk of cataract formation. However, they conclude that the available evidence is inconsistent overall as to whether vitamin E, taken alone or in combination with other antioxidants, can reduce the risk of developing cataract.

FYI: Warning signs for cataract include having to change glasses or contact prescriptions frequently; eye “film” unrelieved by blinking; and seeing headlights as double or excessively bright. Also, researchers at Harvard warn that carrying excess weight may increase your risk of developing cataract. Supplement recommendations: vitamin E at least 400 IU, vitamin C, not less than 500 mg; alpha lipoic, 100-300 mg.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among Americans 65 and older. In addition, it is the cause of partial vision loss for one of every 20 people.

The macula is a tiny indentation in the center of the retina. It is made up of millions of cells, which produce sharp vision. Directly behind the lens, the macula receives the most light. Over time, free radicals generated by ultraviolet and blue light cause oxidation of and loss of melanin, the protective pigment in the macula. According to Kent Small, MD, of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute, the damage causes light sensitive cells in the macula to die and the retina to atrophy. The result is blurred vision, the first outward symptom of AMD.

Beginning in the mid-90s, a number of studies have indicated that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may be useful for AMD. In one older study, participants with the highest intake of these yellow carotenoids (about 6 mg per day) had 57 percent less risk of developing AMD (Seddon, et al, JAMA, November 9, 1995). In a more recent study, Bone, et al, found that higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the blood
resulted in greater density of the melanin. (Journal of Nutrition, April 2003)

Although the authors above point out that it remains to be        

shown whether increased melanin density affects the development of AMD,  Billy R. Hammond, Jr., PhD, Arizona State University at Phoenix, has found that elderly persons with thick macular pigment have visual sensitivity equal to that of young persons. All this info again emphasizes the importance of eating a diet rich in green and yellow veggies as well as taking lutein and zeaxanthin supplements. 

Add some zinc to that. Based on a 1988 study which revealed that supplementary zinc given twice daily to patients with signs of AMD resulted in a reduction in vision loss, the American Optometric Association continues to recommend zinc supplements in their Treatment Guidelines.

Glaucoma

In this condition, pressure inside the eye may cause vision problems ranging from slight loss to complete blindness. In most cases, this is the result of fluid not draining from the eye. The fluid build-up destroys the cells in the retina that send messages from the eyes to the brain. Challem reports some success with both alpha lipoic acid (150-300 mg) and magnesium (200 mg). 

  There are no symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, people develop “tunnel vision”. For more information, contact The Glaucoma Foundation at 212-285-0080 or www.glaucomafoundation.org.

Diabetic Retinopathy 

More than 50 percent of all persons with diabetes have this condition. The small blood vessels that feed the retina weaken and leak fluid or bleed into the eye. This causes damage to the retina. All of the diet suggestions and supplements mentioned in this newsletter are critical to the health of people with diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid is especially important.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

This is a disease in which the retina slowly deteriorates. Perhaps hereditary, a lack of cellular energy is also involved. There is no known cure. An estimated 100,000 people suffer from this disease.

  In usual cases, vision deteriorates to partial blindness by the early 60s. However, researchers at Harvard found that patients 18-49 slowed progression by taking 15,000 IU of vitamin A daily. They calculated that continued use of supplements might extend sight for a further seven years. Italian researchers have suggested the use of CoQ10. This situation calls for putting all the information about diet and supplement use discussed in this issue to work for you. 

Siri Says: Just as I was completing this issue, I came across a “Special Report” covering vision. One treatment was totally new to me: Ozone Therapy. Frank Shallenberger, MD, reported extraordinary results using this therapy, particularly with macular degeneration. Ozone can effectively eliminate other conditions as well. My own dentist (Chad Tomazin, DDS) uses ozone-infused sunflower oil for gum health. To learn more, check Ozone Therapy, Ozone Saunas, Ozone Courses.