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Fight Cataracts and Other Eye Diseases with Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Nutrients

Can you read this line of type without the aid of eyeglasses? How about the headline above? If you answered yes … congratulations! But what if you answered no? Sadly, more and more Americans are experiencing some degree of vision impairment. But this alarming trend need not continue. Modern science has discovered the link between nutrition and eye health—the link that could prevent eye disease in some people and arrest it in others.

What can you do to protect your vision?

Side view of an eye

Studies have shown that the early detection and treatment of eye disease, before it causes major vision loss, is the best way to control the disease. So, if you fall into one of the high-risk groups for any of the age-related diseases we are about to discuss, please make sure to have your eyes examined thoroughly every two years by an eye care professional and protect your eyes with nutrients that science has proven support eye health.

Before we discuss these nutrients, a little background information … According to the National Eye Institute, at least half of all cases of blindness can be prevented.1 But the number of people in the U.S. who suffer from visual impairment continues to grow at an alarming rate.

Near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism are common symptoms of living in the twentieth century. And as we age, many of us face more serious eye problems. Cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the world, affects nearly 20.5 million Americans; 2.2 million have been diagnosed with glaucoma, and another 2 million are unaware they have it; and more than 1.6 million Americans over 60 have advanced macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness and visual impairment in Americans over 60.2

The top two causes of serious visual impairment

Cataracts

Cataracts are the leading cause of decreased vision in adults older than 65 and is the most common surgical procedure for elderly Americans, costing Medicare about $3.5 billion per year. But you can get an “age-related” cataract when you’re in your 40s or 50s, although most likely it will be small and not rob you of your vision. Only 15 percent of people are affected with cataracts by age 55, but this figure jumps to 50 percent by age 75, and 90 percent by age 85. It’s important to note, however, that cataracts worsen over time … so it’s never too late—or early—to try to prevent them and/or treat them!3

What is a cataract?

Side view of an eye with a cataractA cataract is an opaque spot on the lens of the eye that you can’t see through. The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil, and works like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, which allows you to see things clearly, up close and far away.

The lens is made of mostly water and protein. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. 4

The haze can vary in size, density, and location, which means its effect on your vision will also vary. At first, many people experience an overall reduction in their vision; they may need more light to read by, or may have difficulty reading street signs while driving. A cataract can also affect depth perception, which is particularly dangerous for the elderly who are more prone to falling.5

Common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy, fuzzy, foggy, or filmy vision
  • Changes in the way you see colors
  • Problems driving at night because headlights seem too bright
  • Problems with glare from lamps or the sun
  • Frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription
  • Double vision
  • Better near vision (temporarily in farsighted people only)
  • Note: These symptoms also can be signs of other eye problems.

What causes cataracts?

Researchers suspect there are several causes:

  • free radicals—natural by-products of metabolism—are highly reactive chemicals that cause oxidation, which in turn causes aging
  • physical injury to the vertebrae or neck, or any stress which reduces eye movement and increases muscle tension
  • toxins, pharmaceutical drugs, and smoking
  • diabetes (high levels of sugar in the blood contribute to cataract formation, so it’s not surprising that diabetics are three to four times more likely to have cataracts)
  • the protein in the lens changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years, and hardens and loses its ability to focus 6 7

What nutrients help prevent and treat cataracts?

  • N-acetyl-carnosine eye drops
  • Taurine, vitamin E, vitamin A, carotenoids, grape seed extract, green tea extract, ginkgo biloba extract, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, vinpocetine

Macular degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is most common in people over 50, but can appear as early as age 40. As life expectancy increases, the disease is becoming a significant problem with thousands of people being diagnosed each year. Millions of American seniors experience blurred or distorted vision from macular degeneration, which can put an end to activities such as reading and driving. In fact, age-related macular degeneration affects one in three people over the age of 75 and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among adults.

“In fact, age-related macular degeneration affects one in three people over the age of 75 and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among adults.”

What is the macula?

The macula—about the size of a pencil eraser—is a tiny, yellowish area near the center of the retina that allows you to clearly distinguish fine detail.

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Editor's Note:

The natural health solutions described in these article are available through many on-line retailers including those listed below. By clicking these links you help support the important alternative health research we provide.

Visit NutriStand – The Nutrition Newsstand from the Supplement Man for Science-Based Nutritional Supplements!

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Visit www.amazon.com – a great way to find competitive deals on supplements offered by many different manufacturers.

Visit VitaE8 - The Ultimate Vitamin E – to learn more about the importance of full-spectrum vitamin E supplements.

These articles are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.

References

  1. Shoemaker, John. A. Vision Problems in the U.S.:Prevalence of Adult Vision Impairment and Age-Related Eye Disease in America, Prevent Blindness America, published by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a component of National Institutes of Health (NIH), 2002.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Grossman, Marc, O.D., L.Ac. & Swartwout, Glen, O.D. Natural Eye Care; Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999.

  4. National Eye Institute http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_risk.htm

  5. Grossman, Marc, O.D., L.Ac. & Swartwout, Glen, O.D. Natural Eye Care; Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999.

  6. Ibid.

  7. National Eye Institute, http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_risk.htm

  8. Grossman, Marc, O.D., L.Ac. & Swartwout, Glen, O.D. Natural Eye Care; Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Idem.

  11. John T. Landrum, Richard A. Bone, Linda L. Moore, and Christina M. Gomez, “Analysis of Zeaxanthin Distribution within Individual Human Retinas”, Methods In Enzymology, 1999, 299: 457-467.

  12. Bernstein PS, Zhao DY, Wintch SW, Ermakov IV, McClane RW, Gellermann W. Resonance Raman measurement of macular carotenoids in normal subjects and in age-related macular degeneration patients. Ophthalmology 2002 Oct;109(10):1780.

  13. Snellen EL, Verbeek AL, Van Den Hoogen GW, Cruysberg JR, Hoyng CB. Neovascular age-related macular degeneration and its relationship to antioxidant intake. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 2002 Aug;80(4):368-71.

  14. Wooten BR, Hammond BR. Macular pigment: influences on visual acuity and visibility. Prog Retin Eye Res 2002 Mar;21(2):225-40.

  15. Shaban H, Richter C. Biol Chem 2002 Mar-Apr;383(3-4):537-45 A2E and blue light in the retina: the paradigm of age-related macular degeneration. Biol Chem 2002 Mar-Apr;383(3-4):537-45.

  16. Rock CL, Thornquist MD, Neuhouser ML, Kristal AR, Neumark-Sztainer D, Cooper DA, Patterson RE, Cheskin LJ. Diet and lifestyle correlates of lutein in the blood and diet. Nutr 2002 Mar;132(3):525S-530S.

  17. Mares-Perlman JA, Millen AE, Ficek TL, Hankinson SE. The body of evidence to support a protective role for lutein and zeaxanthin in delaying chronic disease. Overview. J Nutr 2002 Mar;132(3):518S-524S.

  18. Berendschot TT, Broekmans WM, Klopping-Ketelaars IA, Kardinaal AF, Van Poppel G, Van Norren D. Lens aging in relation to nutritional determinants and possible risk factors for age-related cataract. Arch Ophthalmol 2002 Dec;120(12):1732-7.

  19. Hammond BR, et al. Preservation of visual sensitivity of older subjects; association with macular pigment density. Inv Ophthalmol 1996;93:54-8.

  20. Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, et al. “Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration.” JAMA 1994;272:1413–20.

  21. Mares-Perlman et al., “Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the Diet and Serum and Their Relation to Age-Related Maculopathy in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2001, Vol. 153, No. 5, pgs. 424-432.

  22. Brown et al., “A Prospective Study of Carotenoid Intake and Risk of Cataract Extraction in US Men,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, Vol. 70, pgs. 517-524.

  23. Lyle et al., “Serum Carotenoids and Tocopherols and Incidence of Age-Related Nuclear Cataract,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999, Vol. 69, pgs. 272-277.

  24. Hankinson SE, Stampfer MJ, Seddon JM, et al. “Nutrient intake and cataract extraction in women: a prospective study.” Br Med J 1992;305(6849):335–9.

  25. Thomson LR, et al. Elevated retinal zeaxanthin and prevention of light-induced photoreceptor cell death. Qual Invest Oph Vis Sci 2002 Nov;43(11):3538-49.

  26. Grossman, Marc, O.D., L.Ac. & Swartwout, Glen, O.D. Natural Eye Care; Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999.

  27. Khachik F, Carvalho L, Bernstein PS, Muir GJ, Zhao DY, Katz NB. Chemistry, distribution, and metabolism of tomato carotenoids and their impact on human health. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) 2002 Nov;227(10):845-51.

  28. Teikari, J. Prevention of cataract with alpha-tocopherol and beta carotene. Investigative Ophthalmological Visual Science 33 (1992):1307.

  29. Corbe C, Boissin JP, Siou A. Light vision and chorioretinal circulation. Study of the effect of procyanidalic oligomers. J Fr Ophtalmol 1988;11:453–60.

  30. Boissin JP, Corbe C, Siou A. Chorioretinal circulation and dazzling; use of procyanidolic oligomers. Bull Soc Ophtalmol Fr 1988;88:173–4, 177–9 [in French].

  31. Yamakoshi J, Saito M, Kataoka S, Tokutake S. Procyanidin-rich extract from grape seeds prevents cataract formation in hereditary cataractous (ICR/f) rats. J Agric Food Chem 2002 Aug 14;50(17):4983-8.

  32. Pritz-Hohmeier S, Chao TI, Krenzlin J, Reichenbach A. Effect of in vivo application of the ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761 (Rokan) on the susceptibility of mammalian retinal cells to proteolytic enzymes. Ophthalmic Res 1994;26(2):80-6.

  33. Baudouin C, Ettaiche M, Imbert F, Droy-Lefaix MT, Gastaud P, Lapalus P. Inhibition of preretinal proliferation by free radical scavengers in an experimental model of tractional retinal detachment. Exp Eye Res 1994 Dec;59(6):697-70.

  34. Droy-Lefaix MT, Cluzel J, Menerath JM, Bonhomme B, Doly M. Antioxidant effect of a Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) on the retina. Int J Tissue React 1995;17(3):93-100.

  35. Ritch R., M.D. Potential role for Ginkgo biloba extract in the treatment of glaucoma. Med Hypotheses 2000 Feb;54(2):221-35.

  36. Thiagarajan G, Chandani S, Harinarayana Rao S, Samuni AM, Chandrasekaran K, Balasubramanian D. Molecular and cellular assessment of ginkgo biloba extract as a possible ophthalmic drug. Exp Eye Res 2002 Oct;75(4):421-30.

  37. Fies P, Dienel A. [Ginkgo extract in impaired vision--treatment with special extract EGb 761 of impaired vision due to dry senile macular degeneration] [Article in German]Wien Med Wochenschr 2002;152(15-16):423-6.

  38. Gupta SK, Halder N, Srivastava S, Trivedi D, Joshi S, Varma SD. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) protects against selenite-induced oxidative stress in experimental cataractogenesis. Ophthalmic Res 2002 Jul-Aug;34(4).

  39. S.K. Katiyar, M.S. Matsui. C.A. Elmets. H. Mukhtar, Polyphenolic antioxidant (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate from green tea reduces UVB-induced inflammatory responses and infiltration of leukocytes in human skin. Photochem Photobiol. 69(1999) 148-53.

  40. Militante JD, Lombardini JB. Taurine: evidence of physiological function in the retina. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 April; 5 (2): 75-90.

  41. Grossman, Marc, O.D., L.Ac. & Swartwout, Glen, O.D. Natural Eye Care; Keats Publishing, Los Angeles, 1999.

  42. Vegh S, Szikszay E, Bonoczk P, Cserjes Z, Kiss G. Retrospective analysis of the effect of vinpocetine infusion in ophthalmologic disorders. Orv Hetil. 2006 Dec 10;147(49):2361-5.

18 Comments

I am a retired optometrist and your information is very important.  It should be taught in our health care schools but was not when I was in training.

Thank You Dr. Diehl!

It is always nice to hear a comment from an expert that the information we are providing is valuable.  We very much appreciate your input.

Smart Publications

Are there any substances or materials to regenerate/ repair the macula tissue?
  Stem cell injections?  Nutritional supplements?
  Thanks! Jim

HGH helps the eyesight as well.

I looking for : Eye Drops: N-Acetyl-Carnosine (NAC)

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