5 Natural Strategies That May Help Protect Your Healthy Vision
Despite what your eye doctor may say, in Dr Mercola’s opinion, there are natural, common-sense strategies you can employ to help protect your healthy vision.
- Quit smoking, if you currently do. Smoking ramps up free radical production throughout your body, and puts you at risk for less-than-optimal health in many ways. If you want healthy vision for your whole life, you cannot afford to risk less-than-optimal eye health with cigarettes.
- Care for your cardiovascular system. High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow.
- Normalise your blood sugar. Excessive sugar in your blood can pull fluid from the lens of your eye, affecting your ability to focus. And, it can damage the blood vessels in your retina, also obstructing blood flow.
- Eat plenty of fresh, dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale. Your mother was right – eat your vegetables. Studies have shown that a diet rich in dark leafy greens helps support eye health. And that those with the highest consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially ones rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, had increased vision health.
- Consume omega-3 rich foods such as fresh-caught salmon or supplement with krill oil. A study published in the August 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids was protective of your healthy vision.
However, especially if you’re a Baby Boomer or older, you may want to hedge your bets on wise supplementation to help protect your eyes’ healthy function.
If you’re younger, prudent supplementation while also addressing the five natural strategies listed above can offer your eyes important support.
There are some incredible newcomers on the scene of protecting and supporting your eye health, specifically. But before that, you need to know…
Antioxidants Are Key to Supporting Your Eye Health
The job of an antioxidant compound is to neutralise dangerous free radicals in your body. Free radicals that are formed in the fat or lipid sections of the body are handled by the fat-soluble antioxidants. Those that are formed in the watery or aqueous sections of your body are handled by the water-soluble antioxidants.
Both water- and fat-soluble antioxidants should be taken together to protect yourself from free radicals generated from fat or aqueous portions of your body.
Fat-Soluble Antioxidants Help Your Vision
Fat-soluble antioxidants find their way into the fat or lipid-based tissues in your body. Unspent amounts of these antioxidants are stored in your body’s fat. High amounts stored in your body can become toxic and therefore some fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, should not be taken at extremely high dosages.
Fat-soluble antioxidants are important to protect the photoreceptor membranes (stacks of membranous disks that are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) from lipid peroxidation.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula lutea and believed to serve two primary roles: to absorb excess photon energy, and to quench free-radicals before they damage the lipid membranes.
Lutein (from the Latin “luteus,” meaning “yellow”) is a naturally-occurring carotenoid. Lutein is used by your body as an antioxidant, and by your eyes for blue light absorption.
Lutein is a powerful antioxidant, able to fight free radicals and protect cells from oxidative damage.
Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale… also in carrots, squash, and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.
The highest concentration of lutein in your eye is in your macula, the tiny central part of your retina responsible for straight-ahead and detailed vision. More specifically, lutein is found in the macular pigment, known for helping to protect your central vision.
As a side note, lutein helps support your cardiovascular system and your skin as well.
Indeed, lutein may even be more powerful than vitamin E for supporting eye health suggested by this study: – In a double-blind study on carotenoids, 17 patients taking 15 mg of lutein three times a week for two years were compared to patients taking 100 mg of vitamin E or a placebo. The lutein group had statistically significant improvements in visual acuity and glare sensitivity, compared to the vitamin E and control groups.
Zeaxanthin is the strongest antioxidant carotenoid found in your retina.
The average American only gets 0.2 to 2 mg of zeaxanthin per day, depending on the amount and mix of vegetables and fruits in their diet. Studies show that your eyes need more zeaxanthin on a daily basis. Unfortunately, zeaxanthin can’t be made by your body, so it must be supplemented as part of your diet. Once transported to your eye, zeaxanthin relocates into several tissues, including your lens and your macula, to support their daily tasks.
Lutein and zeaxanthin both readily pass into your eyes. Once in the oxygen-rich environment of your retina, they reduce the numbers of those nasty free radicals. So it makes perfect sense that studies show a higher dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is related to greater visual health.
Though there’s no recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, recent studies show a health benefit for lutein supplementation at 10 mg/day and for zeaxanthin supplementation at 2 mg/day. Studies show that dietary intake of approximately 6-20 mg lutein daily appears to be necessary for adequate eye health support.
It may seem like helping to protect your eyes is as simple as eating your leafy greens and a few other foods. But studies show that your body may struggle to break down the plant cell walls housing these nutrients. So what can you do?
Cooking your leafy green lutein and zeaxanthin containing foods on low heat can actually increase their bio-availability by breaking the cell walls and the carotenoid-protein complexes.
Studies also suggest that you absorb lutein much better from a purified lutein supplement, which may contain nearly twice the levels you get from spinach or other vegetable sources.
Water-Soluble Antioxidants Help Protect and Enhance Vision
Water-soluble antioxidants are those that are soluble in your cell’s cytoplasm and blood. Your body cannot store water-soluble antioxidants, unspent or excess of these are simply excreted from the body through the urine so a person cannot theoretically be overdosed. Most dietary antioxidant compounds are water-soluble.
The majority of dietary antioxidant compounds are water-soluble, such as vitamin C, catechins from green tea, and anthocyanins from red, blue, and purple plants.
The most noted water-soluble antioxidants for the eye are the anthocyanins found in black currant. They are important for eye health because they are soluble in the aqueous humor, the thick watery substance filling the space between the lens and the cornea. The aqueous humor maintains the intraocular pressure, provides nutrition for other ocular tissues and serves to transport antioxidants.
Anthocyanins can also reduce intraocular pressure and help in maintaining collagen, which is the main component of the lens and is the connective tissue that supports your eye.
Lutein and zeaxanthin provide fabulous support for your eyes.
The Two Eye Support Newcomers
Two new ingredients – black currant and astaxanthin – recently made their way to the cutting edge of the eye health world. And they’re far more powerful than lutein, zeaxanthin, or bilberry.
Scientists discovered that black currant contains anthocyanins, supporting eye energy. And astaxanthin is also a strong antioxidant.
The challenging thing is… these incredible nutrients are hard to find in typical eye health products. And they must be of superb quality for you to reap the benefits.
Introducing the ‘New’ Bilberry
As important as bilberry has been in the eye health arena for years, it’s now playing second fiddle to its new sidekick – black currant.
Black currant contains some of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in nature — 190-270 mg per 100 g — literally blowing bilberry out of the water. Here’s why it rises above the rest:
- Black currant anthocyanins are absorbed in your plasma as well as in eye tissue.
- 50 mg of black currant powder (9.3% anthocyanins) may help lead to a significant improvement in Dark Adaptation Threshold, a measure of visual fatigue.
- The same black currant powder at 50 mg, or 200 mL of black currant juice, may also help significantly improve this measure.
- Black currant extract appears to be effective at three different dosage levels of anthocyanins in helping to improve visual acuity, but only the 50 mg dosage yielded statistically significant results in one study.
Dr Mercola’s Eye Support not only contains lutein and zeaxanthin (10 and 2 mg, respectively), but it has what Dr Mercola considers to be the optimal 50 mg of black currant that the above mentioned study found led to optimal eye health support. In addition the concentrated ingredients in Eye Support don’t stop with these as there is another super critical ingredient that is believed you absolutely must have for optimal eye health:-
The Antioxidant That Fights Free Radicals 500 Times Better than Vitamin E
The second cutting edge ingredient in Dr Mercola’s Eye Support product is astaxanthin, the carotenoid that gives salmon, lobster, krill, crab, and other shell fish their pink and reddish colours. Astaxanthin has 500 times the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E. That means that when compared to an equal amount of vitamin E, astaxanthin is 500 times more effective.
Astaxanthin’s structure closely resembles lutein and zeaxanthin. But its unique configuration gives it enhanced antioxidant activity for free radical scavenging.
The reason? Its unique structure lets it pass through your cell membranes so it helps protect both the lipid and aqueous outer layers of your cells – at the same time controlling potential damage inflicted on your cells by loose free radicals.
Here’s how astaxanthin benefits your eyes:
- Provides superior protection against oxidation of your retinal tissues caused by light
- Is a much more powerful antioxidant than canthaxanthin, zeaxanthin, and lutein
- Is 14 times stronger than alpha-tocopherol, 54 times stronger than beta-carotene, and 65 times stronger than vitamin C in scavenging oxygen free radicals
- Helps maintain appropriate eye pressure levels that are already within the normal range
Supports your eyes’ energy levels and visual acuity
The bottom line here is this… Naturally-occurring astaxanthin in supplement form can offer powerful antioxidant protection for your eyes. And this is important, since if you’re like most people, your diet likely lacks sufficient amounts of astaxanthin.
No Worries About Pro-Oxidant Activity
When you’re dealing with antioxidants, certain carotenoids can act as pro-oxidants, which actually cause oxidation in your body when high concentrations are present in your tissues.
Vitamin C, for example, appears to have a mostly antioxidant action in your body but beta-carotene, lycopene and zeaxanthin can be pro-oxidant under certain conditions. However, astaxanthin never exhibited pro-oxidant activity in studies, so there appears to be no pro-oxidant risk in taking higher doses of this incredible nutrient.
Why Dr Mercola is Convinced their Astaxanthin Is High-Quality
As with all Mercola supplements, they continually search for the best quality products available. Of all the sources of astaxanthin available, here’s why Dr Mercola believes their source for Eye Support is high-quality:
- It comes from green algae, one of the richest and most bio-available natural sources of astaxanthin
- It’s made using a special CO2 extraction method that doesn’t use toxic solvents. This controlled process yields a pure, top quality product and a whopping 10% astaxanthin, compared to a typical 5-7% yield for competitors
- It’s stable, with a long shelf life