It is commonly believed that as age increases, visual sensitivity decreases. But what if vision loss as part of the aging process was not inevitable? What if improved nutrition could help slow and even deter vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration? The role of nutrition is garnering more and more attention from the eye care community with regards to how particular carotenoids can be applied in the treatment and prevention of AMD.
There is certainly no shortage of new research on how nutrition can help prevent the development of macular degeneration. Researchers have tested the efficiency of nearly every nutrient; from zinc to beta-carotene to omega-3. In fact, the recent AREDs-2 trial rendered omega-3 ineffective for the prevention of AMD. Additionally, the study found that beta-carotene is associated with poor absorption of other eye healthy nutrients. Yet another important finding of AREDs-2 was that a combination of three carotenoids found in the eye known as lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin can successfully protect the macula and ward off AMD. Dr. John Nolan of the Macular Pigment Research Group in Waterford, Ireland has even hailed these ingredients as being “able to change the course of disease.”
So what are carotenoids, exactly? Carotenoids are phytochemicals commonly found in certain fruits and vegetables. They provide the yellow and orange colour in foods such as bell peppers, corn and squash.
But if these carotenoids are readily available in our food, why is AMD so prevalent? The fact is that the majority of Americans do not consume enough lutein and zeaxanthin rich foods in order to receive the protection that they require. Further, meso-zeaxanthin (the third carotenoid found in the central fovea) is not present in typical Western diets. And though it is theorized that meso-zeaxanthin is manufactured from lutein, some individuals may lack the enzyme to ensure this conversion occurs.
When it comes to AMD, the importance of proper nutrition is immeasurable. In fact, scientists have established that diets high in fat can actually increase one’s risk of developing the blinding disease. Thus, it is very important for those concerned about AMD risk to steer clear of saturated fats found in animal products, high fat cheeses, butters and creams. Plant oils including palm kernel oil and canola oil should also be avoided.
Of course, for those of us with busy schedules and a lack of time on our hands, getting an adequate daily dosage of macular carotenoids and avoiding high fat meals is not always easy. This is precisely why it is imperative to supplement with a triple carotenoid formula. A supplement like MacuHealth contains an ideal ratio of lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin (in its converted form) and makes optimizing macular health a synch.
Talk to your doctor about supplementing with carotenoids.
There has been lots of news recently regarding the FDA approved CentraSight implant for those with end stage macular degeneration. The telescope is implanted in one eye much like a lens is implanted in those with a cataract. After a patient receives the implant, several weeks of training with a low vision clinic is required to optimize the use of this visual aid. With many Medicare insurance policies providing coverage and many new eye specialists being trained, more and more patients are appreciating the benefits of improved vision. Other patients with AMD find that telescope mounted glasses offer improved vision for seeing the world around them. The benefit of being able to see faces, street signs, and pretty gardens outweighs the strange appearance of these binocular glasses.
Another new technology is on the horizon that does not require any surgery or the obvious appearance of odd looking glasses. It is called a telescopic contact lens. Thanks to the collaboration between engineer, Eric Tremblay of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland and a team of researchers from the University of California San Diego, a telescopic contact lens has been created that in the future may benefit those with macular degeneration. “For a visual aid to be accepted it needs to be highly convenient and unobtrusive,” says Eric Tremblay, the co-author of Switchable Telescopic Contact Lens, an article that was posted in the Optical Society’s journal, Optics Express.
What makes this vision aid different and unique is that a contact lens is less noticeable and more attractive than telescopic glasses and more convenient than surgery and low vision rehab. The lens will work by magnifying incoming light and spreading the light to the undamaged parts of the retina. The magnifying portion of the lens will magnify 2.8 times and will help patients with their ability to read, identify faces and to remain more independent.
Another interesting feature is that the ability to switch between normal vision and magnified vision will be possible. The center of the lens will provide unmagnified vision and the telescope that circles around the periphery of the lens will offer the 2.8 times magnification.
Ever hear of liquid crystal glasses? They are used in some high tech eye glasses where a
simple electrical impulse changes the liquid crystals. The crystals change how the lenses refract or bend light. The wearer can select whether he/she wants to use the magnified feature of the lens or the unmagnified lens.
Look for more updates on this vision aid for macular degeneration and other low vision technology here:
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
The topic of using stem cells for treating medical conditions can generate strong feelings of support and/or serious ethical concerns. In the most simple terms there are basically two categories of stem cells – embryonic and adult. While the use of some, but not all, embryonic stem cells results in the death of the embryo, umbilical cord stem cells are considered adult stem cells and come from tissue that in the past was simply tossed away – the umbilical cord and the placenta. However, that is quickly changing.
According to the author of The Stem Cell Dilemma, Dr. Leo Furcht, “It is thought by some medical scientists that umbilical cord blood harbors adult stem cells that have many, if not all, of the important attributes of embryonic stem cells.” Even now stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood are being used in clinical trials to treat cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, autism, pediatric stroke and juvenile diabetes. As a result of many positive outcomes, cord blood banking is now becoming more prevalent and common.
Cord Blood Banking
An expectant couple can opt to harvest and store their child’s cord blood for their own purposes in the event that their child develops a future condition or experiences a trauma that requires its use. The couple is required to pay for the harvesting and storage costs. Or the couple can donate the cord blood to a public cord blood bank at no cost to themselves.
Stem Cell Sources
Transplanted stem cells can come from 4 different sources – embryos, umbilical cord blood, the bone marrow or circulating blood. When a child receives and uses his/her own cord blood stem cells it is called an autologous transplant. Transplanted stem cells that come from a donated source are called an allogeneic transplant.
So what do umbilical cord stem cells have to do with macular degeneration? There is currently a clinical trial that is transplanting umbilical cord stem cells into the retina of those who have an advanced form of macular degeneration, called geographic atrophy. It is a Phase I study which means it is looking at the safety. The name of the study is A Safety Study of CNTO 2476 in Patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Eligible patients will receive a one-time sub-retinal administration of Human Umbilical Tissue Derived- Cells (CNTO 2476) using a micro-catheter. The sponsor is Janssen Research & Development, LLC. To find out more about this study and where it is being conducted go to:
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
There are many super-antioxidant berries being promoted to benefit our health and well being. From acai berries to goji berries these so called superfoods are reported to help us fight cancer, improve our vision, and reverse diabetes. No wonder with claims like these it’s easy to discount the true benefits found in these more exotic fruits. Not readily accessible in our grocery stores, one may wonder if these berries rank up there with other powerhouse berries like blueberries and blackberries.
Wolfberries (another name for goji berries) are one of the few foods rich in zeaxanthin. So why do we want to include food rich in this antioxidant? Zeaxanthin is found in very high concentrations in the cone cells of the macula. Cone cells are responsible for giving us our sharp, distinct, clear vision as well as our straight ahead or central vision.
Dr. Lylas Mogk in her book Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight, writes that there are very few foods that are rich in zeaxanthin but wolfberries have some of the highest concentrations of this antioxidant.
What are Goji Berries?
Just like other berries, they grow on a bush that is more like a vine in Asia and in North and Central America. There are over 80 different species which means they come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Typically they are dried and look like a red/orange raisin. Because of the different species and varied growing conditions we have found there is also a difference in how they taste.
How to Get Them Into Your Diet
Although it is hard to substantiate claims for improving health or vision, I do know that it is wise to include foods that are rich sources of nutrients. Why not choose a berry that is known for it’s nutrient density? We incorporate this superfood into our diet two ways – one is by drinking a small glass of organic goji berry juice in the morning (on an empty stomach) and the other is snacking on the dried berries or adding them into a smoothie.
Goji Berry Benefits
Let’s start with the author of SuperFoods, David Wolfe. He writes, “Goji berries are perhaps the most nutritionally rich berry-fruit on the planet.” For starters they are a complete protein source, contain many trace minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium, as well as many vitamins like B1, B2 and vitamin E. And let’s not forget their rich concentration of zeaxanthin.
Find out more about the benefits of this superfood on your health and your eyes here:
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for not only our vision but for our brain, our skin, our heart, our joints and even our moods. Who wouldn’t want some improved health in any of these areas? However, getting enough of these essential fatty acids (EFA) in our diet has become more of a challenge for several reasons.
1. Today’s meats are much lower in omega-3 fatty acids than they were a hundred years ago. Animals that were at one time free range are now given feed that is high in omega-6s so their meat is high in this type of EFA.
2. Processed or packaged foods use oils that are high in omega 6s. This includes foods like mayonnaise, granolas and granola bars, salad dressings, margarine, fast foods and many vegetable oils.
3. The ratio of omega 6s to omega 3s is unbalanced. When the amount of omega 6 foods in our diet accounts for more than the omega 3s, our bodies find it difficult to benefit from the omega 3s because they both compete for the same cell receptor sites.
So at the same time we are trying to include more foods high in omega 3s we need to decrease foods high in omega 6s. A grilled salmon for dinner is not going to benefit one’s health if it follows a lunch from a fast food restaurant.
The three main types of EFAs are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha linolenic acid). DHA is necessary for healthy retinal function. According to Molecular Vision 2010:
“Studies over several decades have shown that DHA is essential for maintaining the normal structure and function of the retina . Reduction of DHA in the retina can lead to diminished retinal electrical responses to light in rodents, reduced visual acuity in nonhuman primates, and delayed photoreceptor development and function in preterm and term human infants.” So how can we get more of these important fats incorporated into our diet? There are two options.
Animal sources of omega 3s provide DHA and EPA. They include wild salmon, canned sockey salmon, Alaskan halibut, canned albacore tuna, sea bass, and sardines packed in water or olive oil . Other fish include herring, sablefish, and butterfish. Animals that graze on grass rather than on grains.
Plant sourced EFA is called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). To benefit from this EFA the body needs to convert ALA to DHA and EPA. There is some concern as to how efficient the body is able to make this conversion. Food sources include flaxseed (freshly ground) and flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, soybeans and tofu, hemp seeds, omega 3 fortified eggs, canola oil and in lesser amounts in leafy greens like kale, spinach and collard greens.
For more information go to:
Fish Oil Health Benefits
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
Better Health For Better Vision
When you go grocery shopping for fresh or frozen salmon have you noticed that there are several different kinds of this fish? The label may say Atlantic farm raised salmon or wild Alaskan salmon. If you are like me, you probably also noticed the price difference between the two with the wild Alaskan salmon costing lots more. You’ve heard that salmon is good for you and is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. So why not just get the cheaper farm raised one so you can afford to eat it more often?
I wish it were that simple. Why does grocery shopping have to be so complicated? The more our food sources get away from what is natural, as nature intended, usually the less benefit there is to our health. Unfortunately this is true with salmon. Let me explain why.
Benefits of Eating Salmon
Salmon is considered one of the super-foods of healthy fats because of its rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids. The retina has a high concentration of omega-3’s especially DHA. Omega-3s play an important role in visual function and are also known to be anti-inflammatory. Increasing the amount of salmon to just 2 servings per week can impact one’s risk of developing macular degeneration. Researchers from Australia and Singapore published a study entitled, “Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake in the Primary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” The authors found that high dietary intake of fish oils was associated with a 38% reduction in the risk of late macular degeneration. Those who ate fish twice a week, not only reduced their risk of late AMD, but also early AMD.
Balanced Omega 3 and Omega 6 Ratio
There are basically two types of essential fatty acids (EFA), which means the body cannot produce them, but must get them from food sources. They are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both EFAs compete for the same cell receptor sites which is why it is important to have the right ratio. Today’s American diet means that just about everyone is getting way more omega-6s than omega-3s thanks to processed foods. Dr. Lylas Mogk, the author of Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight, writes, “ … people whose diets have the right ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have less macular degeneration than those whose diets are skewed.” In order to get these EFAs back in balance we need to be very intentional in reducing omega-6s and increasing our omega-3s. Farm raised salmon has less omega-3’s and more omega-6’s than wild caught Alaskan salmon – defeating the purpose of getting our EFA ratio back into balance.
For more tips on nutrition to support a healthy body and healthy vision go to:
Macular Degeneration Diet
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
Better Health for Better Vision
Posted under Eye Health
My husband’s father has wet age related macular degeneration (AMD) as did several of my father-in-law’s siblings. As most of you know macular degeneration runs in families. While we can’t change the genes we’ve inherited we can influence the expression of these genes through nutrition and lifestyle.
One area that seems to influence the development of macular degeneration is exercise.
Ophthalmologist and author of SuperHealth: 6 Simples, 6 Easy Weeks, 1 Longer, Healthier Life, Dr. Stephen Pratt writes, “The benefits of exercise have been proven to go far beyond controlling your weight – from boosting your immune system to preventing and/or slowing the progression of diseases like cancer, degenerative eye disease, and dementia.”
You probably don’t need a study to tell you that exercise is good for you, but in case you’d like to know more specifically how physical activity can decrease your chances of developing AMD, let’s look at this study done in Wisconsin.
The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, did a study called Healthy Lifestyles Related to Subsequent Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The study looked at the relationship between diet, smoking and physical activity as it related to the prevalence of age related macular degeneration. One of the conclusions from this study is, “Women in the highest quintile compared with those in the lowest quintile for physical activity (in metabolic energy task hours per week) had 54% lower odds for early AMD.”
Another study called the Beaver Dam Study also looked at the relationship between exercise and AMD. 3874 men and women between the ages of 43-86 years in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, were recruited for this study between the years of 1988-1990. Every 5 years for 15 years these patients were evaluated. The study concluded that, “Increased walking of more than 12 blocks daily decreased the incidence of exudative AMD by 30% over 15 years.”
Did you notice that the study participants physical activity involved walking? Walking can be done almost anywhere and without much expense. Make it a social time by finding a friend, family member or neighbor to walk with you. Download an audiobook, podcast or favorite music to listen to while you walk. I have been listening to the audiobook, Steve Jobbs by Walter Isaacson when I walk. The only time I allowed myself to listen to the book was when I was walking. Eager to finish a chapter or to get to the next chapter, I found myself excited about walking, often walking longer than I would have without the audiobook.
For more tips on macular degeneration prevention go to:
Leslie Degner, RN, BSN
Better Health for Better Vision
Posted under Eye Health
You may think that sunglasses are just for protecting the eyes from damage caused by ultra-violet or blue light, but really they serve several different purposes for those with macular degeneration.
Posted under Eye Health
Here’s one head-to-head drug test that should have been a slam-dunk and wasn’t.
National Eye Institute / Wikimedia Commons
The mottled pattern in this picture indicates age-related macular degeneration.
A few years back the government funded a clinical study of two drugs — one very expensive and the other not so much — to treat a leading cause of blindness. But the problems along the way should give everyone pause about how hard it will really be to figure out which medicines and treatments are better values, the idea behind so-called comparative effectiveness research.
At issue are two treatments for age-related macular degeneration. In 2005, the FDA approved Genentech’s Lucentis, a modified cancer drug, as the first-ever treatment for so-called wet AMD. The big downside? It costs $2,000 for a monthly dose.
Almost immediately, opthalmologists began using Avastin, the original cancer drug also from Genentech, which wasn’t approved for macular degeneration, instead. It cost only $50 per dose, and doctors who used it said it appeared to work just as well.
With the obvious need for a head-to-head comparison, particularly since 95 percent of wet AMD patients are on Medicare and thus treated at taxpayer expense, the National Eye Institute approved funding of a clinical study, called CATT for short, in 2006.
But that was the last part of the process that was simple, some of the study’s lead researchers write in a piece in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. “Our experience with CATT highlights important roadblocks and dramatic changes needed in federal infrastructure for (comparative effectiveness research) to be conducted efficiently,” wrote the authors from the Cleveland Clinic and University of Pennsylvania.
The first obstacle came in figuring out who would pay for the drugs when there was no drug company to sponsor the research. Existing Medicare policy didn’t allow payment for the drugs; it took a specific change in policy which didn’t happen until 2007.
Then there was the problem of patient co-payments. The differential was obviously enormous between a drug that costs $2,000 a dose and one that costs $50 per dose, presenting a challenge not just for recruiting patients who would not want to be in the more expensive group, but for keeping the research “blind.” In other words, even patients with supplemental insurance would be getting “explanation of benefits” statements that would make it clear which drug they were getting.
Eventually, Congress passed a bill to create payment mechanisms needed to carry out such trials; a bill that didn’t pass until July 2008. That came too late for the CATT study, which finally got underway in early 2008, and reached its patient capacity in late 2009.
But the delays weren’t without cost, the authors noted. “The roadblocks delayed study initiation by more than a year, while another 200,000 patients and their doctors had to make decisions without important information about relative efficacy and safety,” they wrote.
And without a more comprehensive policy to cover both federal and private insurers about who will pay for drugs being tested in such trials, they note, “it is difficult to imagine that the $1.1 billion” included in the 2009 stimulus bill for comparative effectiveness research “will be used effectively.”
Link to original article at NPR.org www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/06/04/127480093/future-looks-blurry-for-comparative-effectiveness-research
Posted under Eye Health
This is good news for people who are looking for healthy foods against cancer and diabetes. According to latest studies, your everyday maple syrup has a very strong potential in reducing the risk of diabetes and is very effective in slowing down the growth of cancer cells.