~ March 2005 - The Eyes Have It

Contents . . .
  • Common Age-Related Eye Disorders - When people live long enough, severe visual impairment or blindness is almost inevitable. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to the effects of aging. Degenerative changes in the eye often begin in middle age. By age 70, a significant percentage of people suffer from macular degeneration, glaucoma and/or cataract. Diabetic retinopathy is also a major cause of visual disability among adults.

    A review of the published scientific literature shows that common ocular disorders can be prevented with lifestyle changes. A compelling body of evidence indicates that orally ingested antioxidants and anti-glycating agents (such as carnosine) help to prevent and treat eye disease. Topical agents administered directly into the eye help protect against multiple pathologies related to senile eye disorders.

    Cigarette smoking, sun exposure, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are thought to increase a person's risk of macular degeneration. Antioxidant-rich foods such as kale, spinach, celery, broccoli, green beans, peas and peppers can help prevent the condition and the onset of its symptoms. Dietary supplements of vitamins C, E, beta carotene and zinc can also help protect the retina from macular degeneration.

    Biologic Mechanisms of the Protective Role of Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the Eye

    The macular region of the primate retina is yellow in color due to the presence of the macular pigment, composed of two dietary xanthophylls, lutein and zeaxanthin, and another xanthophyll, meso-zeaxanthin. The latter is presumably formed from either lutein or zeaxanthin in the retina. By absorbing blue-light, the macular pigment protects the underlying photoreceptor cell layer from light damage, possibly initiated by the formation of reactive oxygen species during a photosensitized reaction.

    There is ample epidemiological evidence that increased macular pigment is correlated with reduced incidence of age-related macular degeneration, an irreversible process that is the major cause of blindness in the elderly. The macular pigment can be increased in primates by either increasing the intake of foods that are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, such as dark-green leafy vegetables, or by supplementation with lutein or zeaxanthin.

    Lutein Treats as Well as Prevents Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    Intake of the dietary carotenoid lutein has been found to be protective against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a potentially blinding eye disease that affects as many as 30 million people worldwide. A study published in the April 2004 issue of the journal Optometry, The Journal of the American Optometric Association, has found for the first time that lutein is helpful in treating the disease as well.

    The Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial (LAST) enrolled ninety men with various stages of the dry form of age related macular degeneration and provided them with a daily supplement containing 10 millligrams lutein, 10 milligrams lutein plus an antioxidant multivitamin and mineral formula, or a placebo for twelve months.

    At the conclusion of the trial, the groups who received lutein or lutein with antioxidants experienced significant improvements in macular pigment optical density and glare recovery, near visual acuity and other measures of quality of vision. Those who received the lutein with antioxidants combination experienced better overall visual quality than those who received lutein alone. Whereas prevous research with a formula that did not contain lutein did not appear to prevent against cataracts, no significant opacification of the lens occurred in the current study.

    Super Zeaxanthin with Lutein - For years, scientists have known that consumption of spinach or collard greens can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. The active carotenoids in these vegetables are lutein and zeaxanthin. One study found that those consuming lutein-rich foods five days per week were eight times less likely to develop macular degeneration compared to those consuming them once per month. Many people find it difficult to consume spinach of collard greens five times per week, but this new Super Zeaxanthin with Lutein supplement enables one to obtain standardized potencies of these macular degeneration-prevention carotenoids in just one capsule per day.

    Lutein Plus Powder - While Life Extension was able to locate a pharmaceutical source of lutein extract, there are no companies offering zeaxanthin extract. We therefore created a powdered formula that provides potent concentrations of the vegetables that have been shown to slow the progression of macular degeneration. These vegetables naturally contain potent amounts of zeaxanthin and lutein.

    Lutein Plus Zeaxanthin - Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrate in the eye's macula and lens, as well as in the skin, breast and cervical tissues. Both lutein and zeaxanthin protect the eyes from oxidative stress. Jarrow Formulas® Lutein is extracted from marigold petals. Each softgel contains 20 mg elemental lutein from40 mg lutein esters, which are naturally occurring, more stable and well absorbed.

    Bilberry Extract - We chose this brand because it contains 100mg of 25% extract of Bilberry, a potent dosage useful for macular degeneration and night vision acuity, and for capillary function throughout the body. Diabetics have circulation concerns that are helped with this herb. Dry macular degeneration and other age-related eye diseases are often caused by a breakdown of the circulatory system of the eye. Bilberry extracts have been shown to improve microcapillary circulation throughout the body.

    Brite Eyes II Drops - Scientific studies indicate that the topical application of certain nutrients may help to prevent common senile eye disorders, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and retinopathy. Brite Eyes has specially designed antioxidants, lubricants and anti-glycating agents that counteract the degenerative effects of oxidative stress that comes with age. N-Acetyl-Carnosine is a naturally occurring antioxidant and anti-glycation agent that has shown remarkable effects that protect the eyes. This form of carnosine has access to both the aqueous parts and lipid compartments of the eye. After entering the lipid compartments of the eye, N-Acetyl-L-Carnosine degrades to L-Carnosine, thus protecting the lipid tissues of the eye from light damage.

    Forskolin - From the African coleus plant, Forskolin (Forskolli) is recommended for weight loss, eye pressure that causes Glaucoma, and skin conditions such as Psoriasis. Forskolin may be helpful to control the underlying cause of glaucoma. The often successful use of forskolin to reduce intraocular pressure may be due to its unique ability to stimulate adenylate cyclase activity and increase cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) which regulates and activates critical enzymes required for the cellular energy required to move fluid out of the eye.

    OcuGuard Plus with Lutein - OcuGuard Plus with Lutein is an advanced vitamin and antioxidant nutritional supplement specifically formulated for the eyes. Each easy-to-swallow capsule provides a special combination of micronutrients the eyes may require, including lutein and high potency beta-carotene, which are potent antioxidant carotenoids. Other nutrients included in this synergistic formula are zinc from zinc picolinate (a chelated form of zinc that is easy for the body to absorb and use), natural vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and much more. This product contains no added sugars, salt (sodium), preservatives or tablet binders and coatings, soy, yeast, milk or egg products, and is well tolerated by most highly allergic individuals.

    Vision Optimizer - This formula is appealing because it does not contain added Vitamin A which most people get in their multiple. It contains appropriate amounts of the following expensive nutrients to protect and inhibit many eye conditions. Lutein: critical antioxidant carotenoid for the macula of the eyes. Protects against macular degeneration. Bilberry: plant pigments that protect night vision. Grape Seed Extract: supports capillaries and blood vessels in the eye. Alpha Lipoic Acid, Selenium and Vitamin B2: all support gluathione production in the liver. Glutathione is the major antioxidant in the body and acts like a sun screen to protect the lenses of the eyes. Ginkgo and Taurine: promote circulation and contains free radical scavengers - flavonoids known as flavonglycosides. Taurine protects the eye lenses against peroxidation and glycation. Quercetin: protects lens architecture by its effects on the enzyme aidose reductase.

    Visual Eyes - A Bio-Aligned Formula™ with Bilberry, Lipoic Acid and Lutein that supports the multiple body systems affecting vision: the brain and nervous system, antioxidant defense including macular and lens protection, liver, heart and circulation. Visual Eyes incorporates powerful herbal extracts and special ingredients known for their affinity for eye tissues, including Vitamin A (as beta carotene).
  • An Eye to the Future
    By Dean S. Cunningham, MD, PhD

    "I would give anything to read the newspaper again," laments my otherwise healthy 68-year-old patient with recent onset macular degeneration, a condition she had never heard of before. Her physical disability in turn has led to clinical depression, characterized by frequent crying spells, hypersomnia, reclusiveness, and hopelessness. Despite the prevalence of eye disorders in people over the age of 50, relatively few such adults have heard of the major disorders, know what they are or what causes them, understand their paralyzing impact, or know what can be done to prevent them.

    I recently surveyed 50 adults between the ages of 35 and 50 and was surprised to learn that while 92% had heard of cataracts, fewer than 15% could describe what one is. Only 4% had heard of diabetic retinopathy and none could describe the condition. While 34% had heard of glaucoma, a mere 4% knew what glaucoma is. Finally, just 8% had heard of macular degeneration and only one person out of 50 knew what it was.

    Prevention of disease requires awareness, basic knowledge, and a plan. In this article, I will review the anatomy of the eye, briefly describe how we see, and outline the four major eye diseases for which we all are at risk:
    • Cataracts
    • Diabetic retinopathy
    • Glaucoma
    • Macular degeneration
    You will learn what these conditions are, what causes them, and the simple steps you can and should take now to prevent them.

    Read the article . . .
  • Macular Degeneration: The Role of Nutrition
    By Dennis L. Gierhard, PhD

    Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, affecting more than 10 million Americans. The disease occurs when the central portion of the retina (the macula) deteriorates, resulting in impaired vision or blindness. The good news is that leading researchers have identified specific dietary factors that can prevent, and even partially reverse, this devastating ocular disorder.

    Zeaxanthin is one of 700 plant pigments called carotenoids that provide much of the color in nature and our diet. The carotenoids derive their name from the fact that the first pigment isolated, beta-carotene, was from carrots. Beta-carotene is an important source of vitamin A, which is critical to vision. Zeaxanthin and its closely related cousin, lutein, are called xanthophylls and are perhaps the third to seventh most prevalent carotenoids in the human diet (depending on fruit and vegetable selection).1,2 Humans cannot synthesize these carotenoids and thus must obtain them from their diet. Zeaxanthin and lutein have been recently called "conditionally essential nutrients" because of their critical protective functions in the eye.3

    Guarding Against Light Damage

    Plants synthesize zeaxanthin and lutein to harvest light energy and protect against excessive light. It now appears that humans also utilize these pigments to protect the eye from excessive interaction with the damaging effects of light. This function of zeaxanthin is analogous to a set of "nature's sunglasses" for the tissues of the eye. In plants, lutein is most often used to help green leafy tissues harvest light safely.

    While plants use zeaxanthin to safely harvest light, they more importantly use zeaxanthin to protect against harmful light levels. Dark green leafy vegetables contain large amounts of both pigments but have much more lutein compared to zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is more predominant in many of the yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables such as peppers, corn, and peaches.1-6

    Both lutein and zeaxanthin absorb the very high-energy and most damaging portions of the light spectrum (ultraviolet blue). This absorption of the high-energy spectrum is critical to the protection of the lens, retina, and macular portions of the eye.1,5,7

    Read the article . . .
  • Vitamin C Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Cataract in a Mediterranean Population

    Cataract is an important visual problem of older people and a substantial health care cost in many countries. Most studies investigating risk factors for cataract have been conducted in the United States, and there is less information on the possible role of dietary factors in European populations. We conducted a case-control study to investigate the association of antioxidant vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, zeaxanthin andlutein) and minerals (zinc and selenium) and risk of cataract in a Mediterranean population.

    Cases with cataract (343) and 334 age/sex frequency-matched controls aged 55 to 74 years old were selected from an ophthalmic outreach clinic in Valencia, Spain. Participants were interviewed about their diet using a Food Frequency Questionnaire, and other information on potential confounders, such as smoking, alcohol, and education. Blood samples were analyzed by a colorimetric method for vitamin C and by reversed-phase HLPC for other blood antioxidants. Blood levels of vitamin C above 49 micromol/L were associated with a 64% reduced odds for cataract (P < 0.0001).

    Dietary intake of vitamins C, E and selenium were marginally associated with decreased odds (P = 0.09, P = 0.09, P = 0.07, respectively), whereas moderately high levels of blood lycopene (>0.30 micromol/L) were associated with a 46% increased odds of cataract (P = 0.04). Our results strengthen the evidence for a protective role for vitamin C on the aging lens as this effect was seen in a population characterized by high vitamin C intakes.
  • Eye Health Protocols

    Cataracts. Few people know that poor vision from cataracts affects 80% of people 75 years of age and older. Cataract surgery costs Medicare more money than any other medical procedure, with 60% of those who initially qualify for Medicare already having cataracts. Taking steps to prevent the disease early in life may mean you are one of those 20% of people who enjoy good eye health and never suffer from cataracts.

    A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye, which reduces the amount of incoming light and results in deteriorating vision. Often described as similar to looking through a waterfall or a piece of waxed paper, the condition makes daily functions such as reading or driving a car increasingly difficult or impossible. Sufferers may need to change eyeglass prescriptions frequently. It is estimated that 20 million people worldwide suffer from cataracts. More than 350,000 cataract operations are performed in the United States yearly.

    Many people are born with minor lens opacities that never progress, while others progress to the point of blindness or surgery. Many factors influence vision and cataract development such as age, nutrition, medications and sunlight exposure. High blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes or direct trauma to the eye can also cause cataracts.

    The aging process itself lends to certain metabolic changes that may predispose the lens to cataract development. Some of this occurs due to low supply of oxygen and nutrients, which leave the eye open to free radical damage.

    Read the Protocol for Cataracts . . .

    Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The macula is the central and most vital area of the retina. It records images and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The macula is responsible for focusing central vision that is needed for seeing fine detail, reading, driving and recognizing facial features.

    Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55, affecting more than 10 million Americans. It is a condition in which the central portion of the retina (the macula) deteriorates. It is equally common in men and women and more common in whites than blacks. The cause is unknown, but the condition tends to run in some families. Macular degeneration affects more Americans than cataracts and glaucoma combined.

    There are two forms of macular degeneration: atrophic (dry) and exudative (wet). Approximately 85% to 90% of the cases are the dry type. Both forms of the disease may affect both eyes simultaneously. Vision can become severely impaired, with central vision rather than peripheral vision affected. The ability to see color is generally not affected, and total blindness from the condition is rare.

    Exposure to light and photochemical damage have been suspected factors in AMD, as well as decreased antioxidant activity responsible for damage control. An age-dependent drop in glutathione blood status, and a significantly lower level of glutathione has been found in older individuals compared to younger ones. Moreover, an increase of oxidized glutathione by-product over time suggests more oxidation and the incumbent higher risk of age-related eye diseases. In the early stages of AMD, glutathione has been found to protect retinal pigment epithelial cells from dying. Glutathione, which is particularly concentrated in the lens, has been shown to have a hydroxyl radical-scavenging function in lens epithelial cells.

    Read the Protocol for Macular Degeneration . . .

    Diabetic Retinopathy. One of the leading complications associated with diabetes is blindness or other eye diseases stemming from vascular damage to the eyes caused by high blood sugar. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common form of diabetes eye conditions, happens due to damage of the retinal blood vessels. The damage causes the ruptured vessels to leak fluid, restricting oxygen and blurring sight. As the disease progresses, the eye tries to form new vessels on the surface of the retina, which may also bleed or obscure sight by their mere presence.

    A growing body of research shows that oxidation induced by glycation can wreak havoc on the eye. Protein glycation occurs when sugar molecules inappropriately bind to protein molecules, forming crosslinks that distort the proteins and consequently render them useless. Glycation appears to increase oxidative processes, which may explain why both glycation and oxidation simultaneously increase with age. High blood sugar also increases glycation activity, which may also explain the various kinds of tissue damage that characterize advanced diabetes.

    Diligently controlling blood sugar is a major means of preventing or at least slowing the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy.

    Read the Protocol for Diabetic Retinopathy . . .

    Glaucoma. Glaucoma, usually an inherited disease, results from the build-up of pressure in the aqueous humor, the liquid that fills the area between the cornea and the lens. Generally, the condition develops after age 40, although congenital glaucoma and physical injury to the eye can account for earlier age of onset. Figures show that 1 out of every 25 Americans suffers from glaucoma, and over 62,000 are legally blind due to glaucoma.

    Age-related losses of antioxidants increase physical stress on the eye, and oxidative damage ensues. For example, diminished antioxidant activity in lacrimal (tear) fluid and blood plasma seems to coincide with progression of glaucoma. It's also proposed that the rate of crystalline damage increases as antioxidant capacity and protease activity declines with age.

    In open-angle glaucoma, the common form of the disease, drainage of the aqueous fluid is sluggish, so the backup causes the undue pressure in the eye. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that feed the optic nerve, causing the nerve to die over time, and leading to decreased peripheral vision, tunnel vision and finally blindness. A rarer form of glaucoma is called narrow-angle or congestive glaucoma, whereby the flow of the aqueous liquid is blocked causing pressure to build up.

    Read the Protocol for Glaucoma . . .
  • Featured Product: - Super Zeaxanthin with Lutein - For years, scientists have known that consumption of spinach or collard greens can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. The active carotenoids in these vegetables are lutein and zeaxanthin. One study found that those consuming lutein-rich foods five days per week were eight times less likely to develop macular degeneration compared to those consuming them once per month.

    Initial studies showed that lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the incidence of macular degeneration in human populations. New studies indicate that consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin (for as little as one month) can actually help restore macular pigment density in human subjects.

    Lutein was introduced by The Life Extension Foundation in 1985 and is now available in many dietary supplements. Only recently has a high potency zeaxanthin extract become available.

    Many people find it difficult to consume spinach of collard greens five times per week, but this new Super Zeaxanthin with Lutein supplement enables one to obtain standardized potencies of these macular degeneration-prevention carotenoids in just one capsule per day.

    Important note: Life Extension Mix provides over 15 mg lutein in the daily dose of fourteen capsules, nine tablets or one tablespoon of powder. This amount of lutein by itself may adequately protect against macular degeneration. The benefit of the new Super Zeaxanthin with Lutein formula is to provide a potent, standardized dose of zeaxanthin with additional lutein to help facilitate preservation and restoration of macular pigment density. Lutein has also demonstrated cancer prevention properties as well as benefits to the arterial system. These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Supplement Facts

    One softgel:
    • Zeaxanthin -- 5mg
    • Lutein -- 10mg
    Other ingredients: gelatin, rice bran oil, glycerin, water beeswax, lecithin and annatto.

    Dosage and Use: Take once or twice a day with a meal, or as recommended by your health practitioner. Zeaxanthin and lutein are the only two carotenoids found in the retina of the eye. Scientific research has shown that supplementation with these carotenoids can increase macular pigment density, thus providing natural protection against macular degeneration.
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