Studies Show Nutritional Supplements Help Macular Degeneration, Dry Eyes, Diabetic Eye Disease and Many General Health Conditions
Most people are aware that supplements are helpful for many general health conditions, but few people are aware that specific supplements help with many ocular conditions. 97% of insulin dependent diabetics develop diabetic retinopathy. Almost 9 million Americans have age related macular degeneration. 20% of all Americans have dry eye disease. Keep reading to learn about specific nutrition supplements and quantities that are needed to improve many common general health and ocular conditions.
Not all supplements and vitamins
are created equal!
There are many, many misleading statements and ideas on labels and in the media. To take the guesswork out of what you really need and what specific products you should buy we have researched the marketplace and scientific studies and make specific recommendations on this page. We will continue to monitor new research and products and make changes to our recommendations as evidence based medicine dictates.
Diabetic Eye Disease and Macular Degeneration
In diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration three disease processes are at the root of the problem: oxidation, inflammation and neo-vascularization.
Supplements needed to protect against oxidation:
- Green Tea
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Supplements needed to protect against inflammation:
Supplements needed to protect against neovascularization:
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are natural carotenoids found in various tissues of the body. Carotenoids are organic pigments found naturally in plants. Human bodies do not produce carotenoids and must be consumed through food or supplements on a routine daily basis. Carotenoids absorb blue light and ultraviolet radiation and in the macula these pigments in lutein and zeaxanthin are in front of the photoreceptors and can reduce damaging UV and toxic blue light by more than 90% depending on an individual's macular pigment optical density. This process protects the human eye against macular degeneration.
Lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in concentrations 1,000 times higher in the central macular area (fovea) than in other body tissues. Clinical research shows an association between high levels of both these supplements and reduced risk of certain eye diseases, especially macular degeneration. Although additional studies are needed, based on the most current research we recommend 10 mg. of lutein per day and 8-10 mg. of zeaxanthin per day. The current AREDS 2 Study uses a 5:1 ratio of Lutein to Zeazanthin because that is the ratio in blood serum. However, very recent studies have shown that zeazanthin is much more difficult to obtain in the average diet and that Zeazanthin in actually present in the macula by a 2:1 ratio to Lutein. Research has also proven that the macular pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin, reduce signs of macular degeneration such as lipofuscin, drusen, oxidative damage and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
Humans obtain lutein and zeaxanthin from fruits and vegetables, especially dark green, leafy vegetables.
Lutein is expensive and most products on the market do not contain even close to the amount needed to impact and safely maintain the macular pigments in the central retina. Centrum for example contains only 250mcg per dose (0.25 mg). Remember 1,000mcg = 1mg. That amount is NOT effective according to current research studies.
Medical research continues to show that inflammation is a prominent factor in many diseases such as cardiovascular problems and diabetes and possibly even in cancer. Lutein and Zeaxanthin play an important role in general inflammatory modulation.
Green Tea is very beneficial in strengthening the body's immune system and in treating vascular conditions. We recommend at least 150 mg of green tea extract (equal to two to three cups of green tea) per day.
Vitamin C is a primary antioxidant in the eye. Studies confirm its protective effects against cataracts and macular degeneration. It is vital for the formation of collagen, wound healing and maintaining cells.
Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients. Its benefits include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, cancer, stoke and even skin wrinkling. We recommend 500 mg of vitamin C per day.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body against oxidative damage especially in tissues like the retina that are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Vitamin E is essential for the proper functioning of the retinal pigment epithelium, a crucial layer of the retina. Vitamin E also helps to protect against diabetic retinopathy. We recommend 400 IU per day.
Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family. Vitamin E is made up of four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membranes and DNA from free radical damage.
Tocotrienols are natural compounds found in select vegetable oils, wheat germ, barley, saw palmetto and certain types of nuts and grains. Tocotrienols occur at very low levels in nature.
Omega 3's are very important for overall general health. Omega 3's cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed in food or supplements. A few benefits of omega 3's are improved cardiovascular health, retinal health, reduction of complications from diabetic retinopathy and a decrease in dry eye disease. Omega 3's are so important we have dedicated an entire page to omega 3's with great detail. Click here to learn all about omega 3's.
We recommend at least 1000 mg of omega 3's every day. Remember fish oil is NOT omega 3, but has omega 3 essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in the fish oil. However, to count the amount of omega 3's you must inspect the label for the amount of EPA and DHA - add those together to get to the 1000 mg. This is the same amount recommended by the American Heart Association for treating cardiovascular disease. To avoid the annoying fish burp choose an omega 3 soft gel that is enteric coated (like Maxivision Omega-3 Formula).
Vitamin D has been shown in a major study to help prevent macular degeneration. Vitamin D is a primary regulator of calcium homeostasis in the body and is essential for normal bone, muscle and nerve growth and function. Vitamin D protects against osteoporosis and has anticarcinogenic and antioxidant effects. We recommend 1,200 IU for prevention of macular degeneration.
Turmeric is a plant (Curcuma longa) native to India and Indonesia that has been used for centuries in Asia for improving health. Turmeric root is a common ingredient in Indian food, such as curry powder and yellow mustard. Curcumin extract is one of the major antioxidant extracts found in the spice turmeric. Curcumin and turmeric have potent antioxidant properties. Curcumin and turmeric improve colon health, have neuroprotective benefits, have significant cancer fighting properties and help maintain the cardiovascular system.
Turmeric side effects and adverse reactions
Turmeric has proven safe for hundreds of years with no major side effects. However, high doses may increase body temperature, and possibly play a role in causing kidney stones. Exercise caution when taking Turmeric with prescription medicines.
We recommend a minimum of 200 mg of turmeric root per day. There are estimates that people in India consume about 2,000 mg of turmeric a day which provides roughly 100 mg of curcumin.
Additional Nutrients for prevention and treatment of macular degeneration
Co Q-10 (Co-enzyme Q-10) is a powerful antioxidant that helps support a healthy heart and is important for tissues and organs that have high energy requirements. Co Q-10 is important for those taking statin (anti-cholesterol medicines) drugs because statins reduce the natural production of Co Q-10. Co Q-10 reverses early macular degeneration by increasing mitochondrial function in the retinal cells. We recommend a minimum of 20 mg per day (up to 100 mg per day).
Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a super anti-oxidant that primarily benefits the brain but also improves or slows down the progression of macular degeneration by increasing mitochondrial function in the retina cells. We recommend at least 200 mg per day for macular degeneration.
Resveratrol is an antimicrobial substance produced naturally by several plants (including the Japanese Boxwood) when the plant is under attack by bacteria or fungi. There have been many reports of the anti-aging effects of resveratrol but it remains a controversial topic and more research is needed. However, resveratrol is another nutrient that slows down the progression of macular degeneration by increasing mitochondrial function in the retina cells. We recommend at least 5 mg per day for macular degeneration. This amount is equal to the amount found in a bottle of red wine.