Eating Healthy, Seeing Great!

By  Dr. Thomas A. Noel

There’s an old saying: you are what you eat. This proverb is closer to the truth than we might expect, even in the context of, believe it or not, your sight. The eye has a very thin tissue called the retina which helps us see. The retina consumes the most oxygen per grams of tissue in our body. Therefore, systemic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) can be diagnosed via the retina.

Research has established that healthy eating with vitamin supplements is crucial in preventing or slowing down the progression of ARMD, which is the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and over in the western hemisphere. To address this issue, I recommend several important nutrients to help preserve your vision for years to come.

First, eat more fish (omega-3) such as sardines, mackerel, lake trout, Atlantic halibut, herring and wild salmon (which are high in a super carotenoid called astaxanthin that is proving to be a key nutrient in the nutritional approach for combating ARMD). Omega-3 also provides anti-inflammatory agents in the body.

You can also get more omega-3 fatty acids by taking micro-distilled triglyceride from fish oil. (However, stay away from the ethyl ester form of fish oil. Alcohol attaches to the molecule which results in poor absorbtion, compared to triglyceride from fish oil.

Consume dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collards and Swiss chard. Carefully boil, steam or simmer these in extra virgin olive oil. Gentle cooking helps to break down the cell wall, releasing the bio-availability of the greens. Lutein is abundant in dark green leafy vegetables and has been shown to potentially help slow down the devastating properties of ARMD. Lutein and its related compound zeaxanthin are highly concentrated in the macula, providing a yellow color known as the macular pigment, which acts like a built-in sunscreen protecting the macula from the damaging photo-oxidative effects of ultra-violet (UV) rays. Eating more foods that contain lutein or taking a supplement with 10-20 mg of lutein daily will help replenish the macula pigment density that you are more prone to lose as you age.

Orange bell peppers are high in zeaxanthin. Scientists believe this nutrient when combined with lutein filters out dangerous UV rays and may help maintain macular health. Another option is goji berries which are one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants.They contain a very high concentration of zeaxanthin. Goji berry is one of the richest edible plant sources known for zeaxanthin content.

Lastly, drink red wine! New research seems to indicate that drinking red wine in moderation may have some positive impact on ARMD since resveratrol (found in red wines) is a powerful antioxidant proving to have many health benefits.

Enjoy years of great vision by eating healthy!