By Dr. Bryan Warner
You’ve probably heard of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It’s a disease that affects your “straight-ahead” vision ― the central vision you need for so many of life’s daily activities. Things like reading, watching tv, driving and cooking.
AMD is a degenerative disease of the macula. It typically advances so gradually that slight changes in vision may not even be noticed, but eventually it can end in blindness.
More than 2 million people over fifty have AMD, and among those 80 and above, 1 in 10 has late AMD.
However, AMD isn’t the only threat to your eyesight as you age.
Above 24.4 Americans over 40 have cataracts, and the percentage is up to 50% by age 75. Glaucoma, an incurable disease, is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It affects an estimated 3 million Americans, but only half know they have it.
By the time you’re in your 40s, you’ll probably have presbyopia. That’s when the lenses in your eyes harden and the surrounding muscles become less flexible. As a result, focusing on anything close up, like print on a page, becomes increasingly difficult. It can be corrected, but it is annoying.
You may also begin to experience glare intolerance, which causes hypersensitivity to sunlight and headlights of oncoming cars (which can be blinding and therefore dangerous). Colors may also become less brilliant.
But it isn’t only your eyesight that you have to be concerned about. Your deteriorating vision could signal other alarming consequences that you probably don’t expect. As one example, a 10-year study of 625 Americans discovered that, with each step up the scale toward vision loss, your odds of dementia increase by an average of 52%! Other studies have produced similar findings.
If you want to protect your vision (and perhaps your memory), you need to nourish your eyes with several nutrients. Two of these ― Lutein and Zeaxanthin ― belong to the carotenoid family. Another is alpha lipoic acid.
What causes your eyes to deteriorate?
When light penetrates your retina, it reaches your rods and cones (your photoreceptor cells), where it’s converted to nerve impulses. This creates free radicals that damage your optical cells. It just happens. You can’t prevent it.
However, zeaxanthin and lutein, both antioxidants, are the white knights that neutralize free radicals and render them harmless.
What happens if you don’t have enough of these carotenoids? Free radicals ― rogue molecules missing an electron ― attack and steal electrons from nearby healthy molecules. They run rampant, creating new free radicals at lightning speed and setting off a destructive chain reaction.
Molecules cannibalizing other molecules inside eye cells results in oxidation and destruction of those cells. Oxidation is like rust. It’s corrosive, and it damages the photoreceptors essential to sight. There are a lot of targets. The retina contains around 125 million photoreceptors.
Have you heard of blue light? It comes from sunlight, LED and fluorescent bulbs. computer monitors, smart phones and tablets ― and according to a Harvard medical study, it poses greater danger to your retina than any other kind of light.
That’s because it penetrates further into your eyes than UV (ultraviolet) light. And it, too, creates free radicals and damages your photoreceptors.
The sources of blue light are unavoidable, and your only protection is your macular pigment. Found in the center of the macula, macular pigment is composed of zeaxanthin, lutein and meso-zeaxanthin, which is created from lutein.
The important thing is to maintain your macular pigment optical density (MPOD). If this layer of antioxidant protection in your inner eye becomes too thin, blue light will penetrate it and destroy your photoreceptors, which are essential for clear, sharp vision.
Macular pigment improves your ability to:
Lutein and zeaxanthin are concentrated in the retina and lens of the human eye. As much as 75% of the central retina is primarily zeaxanthin, and 67% or more of the peripheral retina is lutein.
These concentrations are far greater than in any other part of the body, and they must be maintained to retain clear eyesight. Not only that, but healthy levels of zeaxanthin, lutein and meso-zeaxanthin are essential to protect against macular degeneration.
Autopsies conducted with donated eyes found that, compared to control subjects, people who had macular degeneration had low levels of all three of these protective antioxidants. This finding echoed those from other studies.
The problem is, you can’t avoid free radicals and exposure to blue light, and, as you age, zeaxanthin and lutein naturally decline. You can get some of these carotenoids from diet ― leafy green plants such as spinach, along with brightly colored fruits and vegetables are best ― but likely not enough. Consequently, as you age, you will be wise to begin zeaxanthin and lutein supplementation.
The good news is that zeaxanthin and lutein are not only preventive, but may reverse the ongoing process of macular degeneration.
Although not classified as an essential nutrient, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that’s essential for eye health. It directly affects tissue metabolism in the eye, converting glucose (blood sugar) into energy and supporting mitochondria.
Because ALA is both water- and fat-soluble, it can deeply penetrate eye tissue and destroy the free radicals that create oxidative stress and promote growth of cataracts ― cloudy growths that cover the lens of the eyes.
Ordinarily, light passes through the eye’s lens behind the pupil and focuses on the retina. The retina, which is light-sensitive, then transmits visual signals to the brain. As light is progressively blocked from the lens by the growth of cataracts, those signals from the retina are dimmed.
Rat studies show that ALA supplementation effectively raises levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that inhibits the formation of cataracts. ALA also reduces diabetes-associated cataracts and protects against oxidative damage in brain and nerve cell disorders.
Glaucoma, a slowly progressing disease, occurs when the nourishing fluid that naturally flows in and out of the space at the front of the eye begins flowing too slowly or it is blocked from draining. The fluid builds up, increasing the pressure inside the eye, which damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss.
Research shows that people with open-angle glaucoma ― the most common form of glaucoma and a common cause of vision loss ― find that supplementing with ALA improves their vision. In one study, half of patients with this type of glaucoma who took 150 mg of ALA daily experienced better color perception and visual sensitivity.
Your sight is precious, and when it comes to eyes, an ounce of prevention is invaluable. I recommend 4sight, by Ortho Molecular Products. This high-quality supplement provides all the key antioxidants you need to guard your eye health. You can order 4sight through our BodyLogicMD St. Louis office, 314.735.0780.
Euler, L. You take an Eye supplement, but your vision keep getting worse. http://greenvalleynatural solutions.com/EYEVP/EYEVP-blur5.php.
Difference Between Rods and Cones. Difference Between. http://www.differencebetween.com/ difference-between-rods-and-vs-cones/. July 8, 2013.
Lipoic Acid. Life Extension Magazine. http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2007/10/nu_ lipoic _acid/Page-01. Oct. 2007.
Macular Pigments: Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Meso-Zeaxanthin. Life Extension. http://www.lifeextension. com/Protocols/Eye-Ear/Macular-Degeneration/Page-06.
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