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Vision and Eye Health  

[Our Precious Eyesight | Herbs and Other Nutritional Supplements]
[Carnosine | Astaxanthin | Vitamins & Minerals | Lutein and Zeaxanthin]
[Rutin | Eyebright | Green Tea | Taurine | N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)]
[Alpha Lipoic Acid | Ginkgo Biloba | Bilberry | References]

adapted from the article by Dr. Bob Martin

Our Precious Eyesight
From the moment we wake up in the morning until we fall asleep at night, we depend on our sense of vision for our contact with the world and people in our lives. Good vision and eye health is a concern for old and young. The thought of losing sight, a major catastrophe, strikes fear and dread. Fortunately, there are measures which can be taken to maintain good vision and eye health. Current scientific research shows that there are powerful, natural antioxidants which promote good vision, support healthy eyes, and protect us from disease.* These special ingredients also help protect the eyes from damage associated with aging.*

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Herbs and Other Nutritional Supplements that Support Vision

Carnosine (beta-alanyl-L-histidine) is a naturally-occurring dipeptide that was discovered in Russia in 1900. Because much of the research with carnosine was performed in Russia, it has been largely unavailable to Western scientists until recently. Carnosine has demonstrated efficacy in promoting good vision and eye health. Among other things, Carnosine helps restore the proteins in the lens, and is thought to function as a "molecular water pump".1 Carnosine has been shown to reduce the risk of cross-linking between glucose and protein. Cross-linking is a process in which protein and glucose starts sticking together which increases the risk of eye degeneration.

Visible Age-Defying Benefits
n a recent article in International Anti-Aging Systems, Dr. Marios Kyriazis reported that his patients who take carnosine supplements often receive comments that they simply look younger. This may be a reflection of the phenomenon observed in experiments which show that carnosine actually rejuvenates older cells in culture,2 and in other experiments in which carnosine prevented the development of visible features of aging.3 In another recent article, Russian scientists reported that not only did the carnosine-fed mice appear much more youthful than controls, but experienced a 20% increase in lifespan.4 Carnosine is extremely non-toxic and safe, and acts synergistically when taken with other antioxidants.

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Astaxanthin - A Powerful Antioxidant and Eye Support
Astaxanthin is a powerful, bioactive anti-oxidant from microalgae, and has demonstrated efficacy in supporting good vision and eye health. Astaxanthin has been shown to be a powerful quencher of singlet oxygen activity,5 and is a strong scavenger of oxygen free radicals, at least ten times stronger than beta-carotene.6  Experiments with red blood cells and mitochondria from rats have shown that Astaxanthin is 100 times more effective at inhibiting lipid peroxidation than is vitamin E. Other tests have shown that astaxanthin is up to 1000 times more powerful than Vitamin E.7 A recent study shows that Astaxanthin is effective at protecting the retina, and that it is also effective at protecting photoreceptors.8 Astaxanthin was found to easily cross the blood-brain barrier (unlike beta-carotene).

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Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins C, E, Beta carotene and Zinc can significantly cut the risk of vision and eye concerns, says a recent groundbreaking study. This study, called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), was sponsored by the National Eye Institute.  If everyone took these supplements, more than 250,000 Americans would be saved from potential eye challenges over the next 5 years, says Frederick Ferris of the National Eye Institute. No other treatment has been shown to protect our vision this much. “This is a rather remarkable finding,” says Paul Sieving, director of the eye institute.

The study, reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology, involved 4,757 people, 55 to 80 years old. The supplements combining antioxidants and zinc cut the risk of the potential eye concerns by about 25%. Gerald Chader, chief scientific officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness in Owings Mills, Md., says the new findings “are tremendously going to improve the quality of life for a number of people.”

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Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Protecting your vision and eye health and prevention of potential eye challenges is of paramount importance. Lutein and Zeaxanthin protect the macula region of the eye (the area responsible for detailed vision) from free radical damage and retard age-related eye concerns.9  Increasing intake of them help promote macular density in your eyes which is important.

Rutin and Quercetin
These bioflavonoids are excellent antioxidants utilized in the body to enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C, and help strengthen the walls of the intricate blood vessels in the eye.

This natural herb is often overlooked today but has been used for centuries for eye concerns.  Appropriately named, it eases oversensitivity to light, and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.

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Green Tea
Most of the studies of the effect of green tea have been focused on its cancer-protecting aspects, but green tea polyphenols are potent antioxidant compounds.  they are more potent antioxidants than vitamin E and vitamin C.  Green tea may also increase the activity of the antioxidant enzyme.  

Taurine is an amino acid that is important for the maintainence of healthy tissues of the retina. It helps protect the eyes from harmful effects of ultraviolet light.*

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)
Some practitioners suggest taking NAC because it is a major glutathione precursor. Glutathione has antioxidant activity and may promote healthy eyes, and is crucial in possibly protecting against free radical damage.* Some studies have shown that many lenses of unhealthy eyes contain approximately 1/5th the amount of glutathione as compared to normal lenses.

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Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is a vitamin-like antioxidant, and is sometimes referred to as the “universal antioxidant,” because it is soluble in both fat and water.10 Alpha lipoic acid supports good vision and eye health.* According to Lester Packer, a leading scientist who has researched free radicals, "Alpha lipoic acid could have far-reaching consequences in the search for prevention and therapy of chronic degenerative diseases...." Several other benefits of lipoic acid regarding eye and vision protection involve its ability to regenerate and increase Vitamins C and E in the body. These vitamins are important naturally-occurring, free-radical scavengers.11

Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is a powerful herbal extract that may increase the circulation of blood to the eyes.* It has been shown in some cases to help lower intraocular pressure in the eyes. Ginkgo has antioxidant activity, improves arterial blood flow and enhances cellular metabolism. It’s known for its age-defying properties which may support good vision and eye health.

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Bilberries for Good Night Vision
Bilberry fruits have long been pressed into jam in Europe and Asia, and were first used for good vision during World War II. Just before their nighttime flights over the English Channel to bomb targets on the mainland, British pilots found that tea and crumpets including a bilberry spread, helped them see better. Subsequent research suggested that the bioflavonoids in bilberries support good vision and eye health. Many doctors are now recommending bilberry for those concerned about potential eye challenges.

The bioflavonoids in Bilberry have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and strengthen the structural integrity of blood vessels throughout the body and promote healthy circulation, particularly to the small capillaries that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the eyes.* Bilberry also helps prevent free radical damage to the delicate structures within the eye.* Bilberry may help your night vision and adaptation to the dark, and promote visual acuity and capillary integrity.* Bilberry may help your night vision (especially noticeable while driving) and makes reading, computer use, and other activities easier on your eyes.*

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  1. Baslow, MH. Function of the N-acetyl-L-histidine system in the vertebrate eye. Evidence in support of a role as a molecular water pump. J Mol Neurosci, 1998, 10(3), 193-208.

  2. McFarland, GA, Holliday, R. Retardation of the senescence of cultured human diploid fibroblasts by carnosine. Exp Cell Res, 1994, 212(2): 167-75.

  3. Boldyrev, AA, Gallant, SC, Suhkich, GT. Carnosine, the protective, anti-aging peptide. Biosci Rep, 1999, 19 (6), 581-7.

  4. Yuneva, M.O., Bulygina, E.R., Gallant, S.C., et al. Effect of carnosine on age-induced changes in senescence-accelerated mice. J Anti-Aging Medicine, 2: 1999, 337-342.

  5. DiMascio, P., T.P.A. Devasagayam, S. Kaiser, and H. Sies. 1990. Carotenoids, tocopherols and thiols as biological singlet molecular oxygen quenchers. Trans. Biochem. Soc. 18: 1054-1056.

  6. Miki, W. 1991. Biological functions and activities of animal carotenoids. Pure & Appl. Chem. 63: 141-146.

  7. Tso, M.O.M., and T.-T. Lam. 1996. Method of retarding and ameliorating central nervous system and eye damage. U.S. Patent #5527533.

  8. Tso, M.O.M., and T.-T. Lam. 1996. Method of retarding and ameliorating central nervous system and eye damage. U.S. Patent #5527533.

  9. Hammond, B.R., et al., "Dietary Modification of Human Macular Pigment Density" Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science.

  10. Kagan V, Khan S, Swanson C, Shevedova A, Serbinova E, and Packer L. Antioxidant action of thioctic acid and dihydrolipoic acid. Free Rad Biol Med 1990;9S:15.

  11. Kagan VE, Shvedova A, Serbinova E, Khan S, Swanson C, Powell R, Packer L. Dihydrolipoic acid - a universal antioxidant both in the membrane and in the aqueous phase. Reduction of peroxyl, ascorbyl and chromanoxyl radicals. Biochem Pharmacol 1992 Oct 20;44(8):1637-49.

This article is adapted from Consumers Guide to Vision by Dr. Bob Martin and reprinted with exclusive permission from NaturalCare.

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