November 1, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a name for a large group of inherited vision disorders that cause progressive degeneration of the light sensitive membrane that coats the inside of the eye — the retina. For most people with RP, night blindness is the first symptom of the problem. Then side vision goes, resulting in tunnel vision and, eventually, central vision deteriorates. Complete blindness, though uncommon, can occur.
Retinitis pigmentosa has long been declared an “incurable” disease by mainstream medicine, although several studies over the past two decades have shown that vitamin A may slow down RP’s progression. However, many doctors balk at prescribing high dose vitamin A because they fear it will result in liver problems.
But a report just presented at the recent Scientific Program of the 2010 American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and Middle East-Africa Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO) Joint Meeting held in Chicago has provided new hope for RP sufferers. Researchers have found that the nutrient beta carotene (found abundantly in yellow and orange foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes), which does not carry the liver risks associated with high doses of vitamin A, can improve vision in some people with supposedly incurable RP.
Last year, Dr.Ygal Rotenstreich of the Sheba Medical Center’s Goldschleger Eye Research Institute in Tel Hashomer, Israel, published a study in the British Journal of Opthalmology showing that a specific form of the nutrient beta carotene, dubbed 9-cis, was effective in treating people with the eye disease retinal dystrophy which causes night blindness. Because RP usually usually begins in childhood with the first signs of night blindness, Dr. Rotenstreich and his research team decided to see if 9-cis could be helpful in retinitis pigmentosa, too. And it was.
In their recent study, one third of the 29 participating RP patients showed marked improvement in visual function while taking the prescribed oral dose of the beta carotene for only 90 days. It will take more research to find out if longer treatment would provide even more effective therapy for RP.
“We recommend repeating the study with patients with the genetic forms of RP that would be most likely to respond to oral beta carotene,” Dr. Rotenstreich said in a press statement. “We know its positive effect is associated with retinoid cycle defect, which is involved in some but not all forms of RP. Also, future research should look for the optimal beta carotene dosage.”
October 8th, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
Achieving good health and avoiding disease involves eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods on a regular basis, particularly those that together provide the full spectrum of phytonutrients that each contribute to a different aspect of good health. Unfortunately, many people are not getting the variety of nutrients they need to stay healthy, including a third of American women that do not consume even the minimal recommendations of fruits and vegetables, which contain important carotenoids that support breast and ovarian health.
Carotenoids are the phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables that give them their rich, unique colors. In women, these organic pigments work to protect them from ovarian and breast cancers, as well as guard against heart disease, inflammation and eye disease, among other things. They are also powerful immune system boosters that improve overall vitality.
But according to a new report called America’s Phytonutrient Report: Women’s Health by Color, many women are not eating enough carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables, especially women younger than 45 years of age.
Based on fruit and vegetable consumption patterns, women over 45 consume 50 percent more beta-carotene, 40 percent more alpha-carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin and 10 percent more beta-cryptoxanthin, than younger women do. But overall, women in general are not getting enough of any of them.
The original report, America’s Phytonutrient Report: Quantifying the Gap, found that 80 percent of American adults in general do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, and are thus deficient in important phytonutrients. So researchers are urging people to incorporate more varied fruits and vegetables into their diets.
Cooked pumpkin, for instance, is a rich source of alpha- and beta-carotenes as well as beta-cryptoxanthin. And cooked kale is rich in lutein/zeaxanthin, containing three times as much as raw spinach. Each fruit and vegetable color contains different types of carotenoids so it is important to eat from all categories.
July 21, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A study that recently appeared in the journal Ophthalmology has found that people who eat fatty fish at least once a week are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that gradually causes vision impairment and blindness in senior adults. The study findings add to the growing list of health benefits gained by eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
More than 2,500 senior adults took eye exams and completed questionnaires as part of the study, and researchers evaluated the relationship between fish consumption and eye health. Fifteen percent of the participants already had early-to-intermediate stage AMD, and under three percent already had advanced AMD. However, participants who indicated they ate one or more servings of healthy fish a week were determined to be 60 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD than those who ate less than this amount.
The omega-3 fatty acids present in oily fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna, are generally recognized to be the therapeutic nutrients responsible for helping to prevent macular degeneration. These compounds offer eye protection that, when regularly consumed, can prevent degenerative eye disease.
“Fish oil contains DHA, a substance concentrated in the retina of the eye, and the consumption of fish oils has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration,” explains Marshall Editions in his book 1000 Cures for 200 Ailments: Integrated Alternative and Conventional Treatments for the Most Common Illnesses.
The Reuters report on the fish study also reveals that high doses of the antioxidants vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc, are all effective treatments for macular degeneration, and that many doctors already prescribe this mixture to their patients with the disease.
According to Dr. Steve Blake, author of Vitamins and Minerals Demystified, the retina of the eye contains high levels of zinc, but as a person ages, zinc levels decrease. So supplementing with zinc, among other antioxidants, appears to be a viable treatment method for the AMD.
Researchers are also evaluating the efficacy of treating AMD patients with the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are present in the retina as well.
July 14, 2010
By: S. L. Baker
Resveratrol — a natural compound found in red wine, grapes, blueberries, peanuts and other plants — has been found to promote longevity and health in a variety of ways. For example, scientists have found evidence it prevents heart disease, helps keep weight under control, normalizes cholesterol levels and may prevent diabetes (http://www.naturalnews.com/027420_r…). Now there’s another benefit to add to this remarkable list of benefits: it could prevent some of the top causes of blindness.
Vision researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have documented that resveratrol stops out-of-control blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in the eye. This discovery means resveratrol could preserve vision in three major blinding eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 50); diabetic retinopathy, which causes vision loss in about 20 percent of people with diabetes; and retinopathy of prematurity which occurs when premature babies experience an obstruction of blood flow into the retina — a condition that blinds 50,000 infants each year.
“A great deal of research has identified resveratrol as an anti-aging compound, and given our interest in age-related eye disease, we wanted to find out whether there was a link,” Washington University retina specialist Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, the study’s senior investigator, said in a statement to the media. “There were reports on resveratrol’s effects on blood vessels in other parts of the body, but there was no evidence that it had any effects within the eye.”
So Dr. Apte’s research team decided to test resveratrol on mice that develop abnormal blood vessels in the retina after laser treatment. Their findings, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Pathology, showed that when the rodents were given resveratrol, the phytochemical prevented the growth of abnormal blood vessels. In fact, abnormal blood vessels that already existed actually began to disappear.
When the scientists examined cells of the animals’ blood vessels in the lab, they found a new pathway — known as a eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (eEF2) regulated pathway — that is behind resveratrol’s eye-protective power.
“We have identified a novel pathway that could become a new target for therapies. And we believe the pathway may be involved both in age-related eye disease and in other diseases where angiogenesis plays a destructive role,” Dr. Apte stated. “This could potentially be a preventive therapy in high-risk patients. And because it worked on existing, abnormal blood vessels in the animals, it may be a therapy that can be started after angiogenesis already is causing damage.”
What’s more, the resveratrol-mediated pathway Dr. Apte’s laboratory has identified may be active not only in several blindness-causing eye diseases, but in cancers and atherosclerosis, as well. That means it might be possible to use resveratrol to not only protect and improve eyesight but to prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of malignancies, too, according to Dr. Apte.