Tag Archives: Eye nutrients

AMD, Genetic Testing, and Supplements

Personalized Medicine, One Size Does Not Fit All

Personalized medicine  identifies an individual’s risk for a disease, like macular degeneration, to help health care providers  tailor  management and treatment to reduce the risk of development and/or progression of the disease. What is good medicine for one person may not be so good for another. Genetic testing is the first step to personalized medicine.

Studies for tImage result for dna genetic materialhe treatment of macular degeneration have yeilded a lot of data on AMD and its progression.  Chief among the studies was the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) which looked at the affect of vitamin supplementation for those at risk for age related macular degeneration (AMD) and those who had varying degrees of AMD. What they found is that some individuals responded well to vitamin supplementation and others did not respond as well.  Many groups of researchers have analyzed the data generated by the AREDS and its follow-up study AREDS 2.  The predictor of who goes on  AMD progression or wet AMD depends on 3 factors:

  • Current level of AMD,
  • Genetic Factors, and
  • Non-genetic factors (environmental, like general health, smokers, age, and education.)

There are presently two genetic tests available for macular degeneration : Macula Test PGX and Vita Test (Artic) .  These tests look at genetic markers on known AMD associated genes. The most significant finding, for why some did not do well with the AREDS supplement formula (13%), was a particular genetic profile that resulted in AMD progression, notably because of the zinc in the formula.  Genetic testing is a guide for those supplements that best helps reduce the risk for progression of the disease.  Armed with this information, an eye doctor would recommend the patient not take the AREDS formula with zinc.  This is personalized medicine.  Giving everyone the AREDS vitamin supplement does not benefit everyone the same.  Other genetic profiles do very well with the supplement.    Related image

While routine genetic testing is not  the standard of care at this time, it is an option.  Without genetic testing, doctors and patients do well by managing treatment and controlling health factors to decrease the progression of AMD.  A t this time, both of these genetic tests may not be covered by insurance plans. and must be ordered through your eye care provider.




‘Healthy’ Diets and the Eyes

Trendy  diets, which eliminate certain foods, are they healthy for the eyes?

Eating can be enjoyable, least we forget that eating provides us with the necessary vitamins, nutrients and minerals needed to maintain a healthy f body. Deprived of an adequate amount of these basic building blocks results in defects of function, premature aging, disease, and decreased energy reserves. What ever effects the body, has an impact on the eyes.

The three main food groups are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins are the building blocks of body tissue, things like muscle, collagen, and epithelium. These tissues are constantly turning over and renewing themselves in a healthy body.  Carbohydrates fuel the body, not just for exercise, but also for maintaining cellular  function.  Excess carbohydrates are stored as fat.  Dietary fats are the oils and solid fats found in animal and vegetable sources.  They are necessary for nerve development, as a source of stored energy, and help with vitamin absorption.  The trendy, healthy diets tend to manipulate the proportions or types of these 3 food groups.  The concern is not only the reduction or elimination of one or more of these groups, but the vitamins and minerals that come along with the foods that we eat.

Each of the 3 diets listed here are in effect healthy diets.  In no way am I suggesting to avoid a diet that can improve your health.  Just be aware that eliminating certain foods from your diet can leave a gap in nutrition. The suggestion is to find alternative sources and/or supplement.  Consult your doctor as to the best alternatives.

The Paleo Diet

You can call this the Caveman diet.  It eliminates processed foods, that means no wheat, sugar, beans, dairy, or alcohol.  It is a diet high in proteins and fats, and lower in carbohydrates.  The only source of carbs should be fruits and vegetables.  The healthy aspect is high fiber, lots of anti-oxidants, and lower blood sugar levels.  A good choice for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

How a Paleo Diet might effect the Eyes

Since there is no dairy consumption there may be a decrease in vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D helps to maintain blood vessel integrity.  The central vision area , called the macula,  receives oxygen and nutrients from a blood vessels that are small and delicate. Impaired vascular health and blood vessel inflammation can increases the risk for macular degeneration.  Those on the Paleo diet should consider supplementing with Vitamin D.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

The vegetarian/vegan diet s are actually a broad catagory of specialized diets. Vegetarians usually will not eat any animal flesh, but there are some who eat fish.  Within this category there are those who will not eat dairy and/or eggs.  Vegans are the strictest category that eliminates any animal products.  The benefit of vegetarian diets is lower body mass and cholesterol levels, meaning lower rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Both of these benefits are good for the eyes.

How a Vegetarian Diet may Effect the Eyes

Most vegetarians I have met are usually aware of the nutrition deficiencies of their dietary choice. There are many nutrients and vitamins found in animal products: protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, omega-3 and iodine.  Each one of these plays an important role in our general health, and therefore our eye health. Deficiencies can result in night blindness, vascular insufficiency, dry eyes, inflammation, and nerve damage.  Since this is the most restrictive of diets, a vegetarian must be informed and aware of their diet deficiencies.  They must be careful to maintain a balance of alternative food sources and add supplements to their diet.

Gluten-Free Diet

Taking on a gluten-free diet is not usually a choice.  Commonly individuals find that by eliminating gluten or wheat products from their diet, they enjoy feeling better.  There are actually 3 categories of individuals who have a negative response to gluten or wheat proteins: non-celiac gluten sensitivity, wheat allergies, and Celiac disease.  The symptoms associated with all three of these forms of gluten sensitivity are similar: bloating, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, generalized joint and muscle pain, and ‘brain fog.’  Celiac disease differs because it is an autoimmune disease (meaning it is genetic, not acquired) that can result in damage to  the gastrointestinal tract.  A damaged GI tract results in poor absorption of nutrients and vitamins. These deficiencies can result in weight loss and other diseases, like osteoporosis, skin disorders, and neurological disorders.

How a Gluten-free Diet can Affect the Eyes

Different from the other healthy diets, eliminating gluten is the only treatment for the signs and symptoms of gluten sensitivity. Those who have Celiac Disease and do not eliminate gluten are in for more health and eye related problems than those with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat sensitivity.  The mal-absorption of nutrients and the deficiency of anti-oxidants can result in cataracts, dry eyes, retinopathy, and night blindness for those with Celiac disease.

As a side note to those with gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies, some  lotions and makeup products have wheat in them, which can result in eye irritation and eczema when appplies to the skin and eye area. .



Meso-Zeaxanthin: The Third Carotenoid

What is it, and do I need it?

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) was a 5 year study  published in 2013.  Notably, in this second study, was the addition of two carotenoids as part of the supplement group.  The carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin.  The conclusion of the study was that these two carotenoids helped limit the progression of AMD.  Lutein and zeaxanthin  are concentrated in the macula of the retina where they  provide protection, by the absorption of light and anti-oxidant activity, and thereby aid in the function of the macula.

Studies have shown that it is not just lutein and zeaxanthin that provide support to the retina, but there is a third carotenoid, meso-zeaxanthin that needs to be present for optimum anti-oxidant effect.

Scientists indicate that meso-zeaxanthin is made from lutein.  The question arises; have you ingested enough lutein and is it converted to the  meso-zeaxanthin form in sufficient amounts to make enough macular pigment to provide protection to the macula?

Although it is thought that some of the meso-zeaxanthin is derived from lutein, the rest needs to be derived from foods. Food sources are fruits, vegetables (green and yellow), whole grains, egg yolks, and fatty fish (Rainbow trout and salmon, especially the skin).  We can never be really sure how much of the vital carotenoids we are getting, even from what we think is a nutritious diet.  In an age where our foods are produced by farm “factories” and may be genetically modified, the nutritional value may not be what we expect.  That is where supplementation becomes important for those with critical needs to maintain ocular and general health.  Supplementing the diet directly with MZ (safely) can prevent the macula from becoming deficient.

Biochemistry is complicated.  The AREDS2 found that the beta-carotene had the capability of competing with, and therefore decreasing the absorption of lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.  So do not take them together.  (Note; AREDS supplement formula has beta-carotene, whereas AREDS2 does not have beta-carotene, but does have lutein and zeaxanthin).

Studies have shown that there is a drop in macular pigment decades before the onset of  macular degeneration.  There is a bonus to supplementing with the carotenoids; multiple studies have found that test subjects who supplemented with carotenoids not only increased macular pigment, but also experienced improved cognitive function.  Even young college students in one study benefited from carotenoid supplements. The trend is that eye doctors are now recommending to their patients who have macular degeneration and those at risk for developing MD, supplements which include lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.

Be aware, when shopping for eye vitamins, the most popular AREDS and AREDS2 formulass do not include meso-zeaxanthin.


Co enzyme q10

Co q10 is a molecule of the ubiquinone family of compounds . The ubiquinones are substances that are found throughout the body, hence the term  “ubiquitous”. It is not considered a vitamin because it can be made by the body. Coenzyme q10 is found in cell membranes, where it has two functions: (1) it is an essential compound used by the cell to form energy in the form of ATP, from carbohydrates to be used by the cell,  (2) it is  involved in free radical scavenging. Continue reading Co enzyme q10

The Carotenoid: Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a nutrient of the carotenoid group. Previously, I discussed the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The carotenoids are important as a nutrient for their anti-oxidant capability to neutralize free radicals, made by the process of cellular metabolism, that have the potential to damage cells. This has important implications for those with eye disease, as a supplement to decrease cellular damage. Continue reading The Carotenoid: Astaxanthin


Crocus salivus, saffron flower
Crocus salivus, saffron flower

Saffron is the spice derived from the three stigmas (red colored threads about 25-30 mm long) of the crocus flower. Not the same crocus we grow here in the States, which blooms in the spring, but a crocus grown predominantly in the Middle East. This variety of crocus (Crocus sativus) blooms in the Fall. The world’s largest  producer of saffron is Iran. Because it takes thousands of flowers to produce an ounce of saffron, it is very expensive at about $30. USD an ounce. Continue reading Saffron

The Flavonoids, Bilberry

Bilberry is a small fruit berry found growing wild on scrubs in Europe. It is dark in color, purplish-blue and is similar to the blueberries found in the United States, but is actually more closely related to huckleberries. It is the dark purplish-blue color that is the active ingredient of bilberries, called anthocyanin.  Anthocyanin is one of the organic substances of the Flavoinoid class of antioxidants. Anti-oxidants react with damaging free radicals in our bodies to prevent or reverse cell damage that can lead to disease. These same substances are also found in berries such as raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, and sour cherries. Bilberry is notable for having the highest concentration of anthocyanin meaning it has powerful anti-oxidant capability. Continue reading The Flavonoids, Bilberry

Eye Vitamins: Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric is known as the “golden spice,” for its bright orange-yellow color. It is derived from an underground stalk, called a rhizome, of a tropical plant, much like ginger. It is one of the spices common to curry powder and is a staple in Indian cooking.  It has long been used for its medicinal properties in ancient Indian medicine because of its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory,  neuroprotective, and anti-cancer effects.  Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric. It is the curcumin which has the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. The curcuminoids account for about 2 – 9% of turmeric. The spice is also a source of vitamin C and magnesium. Continue reading Eye Vitamins: Turmeric and Curcumin

Eye Vitamins: The Antioxidant Vitamin E

Vitamin E refers a group of fat soluble chemicals. While there are several forms, alpha- tocopherol is the form that the body recognizes as a nutrient. It is an important antioxidant to reduce the damage caused by free radicals and it is thought to help strengthen the immune system, blood, and cell membranes. Continue reading Eye Vitamins: The Antioxidant Vitamin E


Antioxidant means: Anti– (from Latin) is “against,” “opposed to” and oxidant refers to reactive molecules produced during the body’s oxygen metabolism or created from environmental causes. Antioxidants, therefore, are those molecules responsible for reducing those reactive molecules which are free radicals and oxidants. Free radicals and oxidants have been implicated as one of the causes of disease. Continue reading Antioxidants