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The dynamite duo that protects against macular degeneration

The dynamite duo that protects against macular degeneration

When I was a practicing physician, there wasn’t much that struck fear in the hearts of my patients more than a diagnosis of macular degeneration. I couldn’t blame them. The thought of going blind is terrifying. And what makes it even worse is that conventional medicine has yet to crack the code of this particular disease.

If you reach back into the recesses of your brain, you might recall learning about the part of your eye called the macula. This is the area of your retina that’s responsible for central vision. The macula has high concentrations of lutein and a related compound called zeaxanthin.

If you don’t get enough of these nutrients, fatty deposits called drusen can form on the central part of the retina, causing the macula to get thinner and dry out (forming the dry form of macular degeneration). The greater the thinning, the greater the vision loss.

Fortunately, you don’t need a high-priced prescription drug or some high-risk surgical procedure to prevent, slow down, or even reverse macular degeneration. The secret is in feeding your eyes the nutrients they need for good health. It’s as simple as that.

The fishy solution to vision problems

Everyone’s talking about omega-3 fatty acids these days, and for good reason: They offer a tremendous amount of protection for your cardiovascular system; they help reduce the risk of cancer and arthritis; they reduce inflammation; they promote healthy brain function and memory; and they do wonders for your eyes.

Omega-3s are known as essential fatty acids, which means that you have to get them from food sources. The three types of omega-3s are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For eye health, the one you should “focus” on is DHA–30 percent of your retina and your brain are made of this particular omega-3.

One of the best sources of DHA and EPA is coldwater fish, such as mackerel, herring, lake trout, tuna, and, of course, salmon. You’ll get all the omega-3s you need if you incorporate fish into your diet about twice a week. Or, if you’d prefer to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, the U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends taking 650mg per day of EPA and DHA and 2.2g per day of ALA.

But remember, not all fats are created equal. If you eat a lot of processed food that’s high in vegetable, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, you’re at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration, according to a study from the Harvard School of Medicine. Snack foods like potato chips are especially high in linoleic acid (not to be confused with the alph-linoleic acid that’s good for your eyes).

Eye health, over easy

Numerous studies also have shown how powerfully effective lutein is when it comes to protecting your vision. But a few have even shown that it can reverse some of the damage if you already have the disease.

One study, published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association, found that when patients took 10mg of lutein each day for a year, they experienced improvements in glare recovery, contrast sensitivity, and visual acuity.

Eggs are an excellent source of lutein. Other good sources include spinach, kale, and zucchini. If you decide to supplement with lutein, make sure you take 6-10mg/day.

For even better vision protection, take DHA and lutein together. A study conducted earlier this year at Tufts University in Boston found that taking these nutrients together helped to reduce the risk of macular degeneration by protecting the macula from oxidative damage, by increasing the amount of lutein in the retina, and by increasing the macular pigment optical density (MPOD).

For the study, the researchers used 800mg/day of DHA and 12mg/day of lutein.

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