Food for Your Eyes and Brain

October 23, 2015

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

In This Issue:

  • Are you taking your vision seriously enough?
  • Protect your independence as you age
  • The nutrients your eyes and brain crave

Aging takes a toll on your body.

That’s why you try to take such good care of it by eating the right foods and exercising.

You probably even take certain supplements to support your heart, brain, blood sugar, liver and overall health.

But I’ll bet there’s one part of your body you neglect.

In fact, chances are good you never even think about it…unless it’s giving you problems.

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I’m talking about your eyesight.

Now, your eyes are working every second of the day that you’re awake. And they get tired, don’t they? I know mine do.

You might squint at your electronic devices or computer at the end of the day. Maybe blink a few times or give your eyes a little rub in an attempt to perk them up.

But eye health involves a lot more than dealing with the fatigue and eye strain of a long day.

If you haven’t put much thought into the future of your eyes, you could become susceptible to two of today’s most common eye problems: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

I admit, technology has come a long way when it comes to cataracts. Still…who really wants to go through cataract surgery when they’re 70, 80 or 90?

And AMD’s a whole ‘nother story.

Today, it’s the leading cause of blindness in Americans 60 and older. And there is no surgery or drugs that will correct it.

When your macula becomes damaged, it can be difficult to work or read in dim-light conditions. Words become blurred and your central vision may become fuzzy and hazy, even when you’re looking at something right in front of you.

When the macular pigment remains dense, it can help keep your vision sharp and eagle-eyed as you age.

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It’s the difference between being independent – able to read, drive and work as long as you want – or counting on others to “be your eyes.”

And here’s another thing, one I’ll bet you haven’t heard about before.

It turns out that people with low macular density are more likely to experience mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. How’s that for a stunner?

You’ll be glad to know that there are two nutrients your eyes crave. So does your brain.

They’re lutein and zeaxanthin.

Your macula is comprised almost entirely of these two carotenes. Over time, if you’re not getting enough of them, this critical part of your eye begins to thin and degenerate.

But when you get plenty of them, they protect your macula by absorbing harmful light rays. They also act as powerful antioxidants to shield your eyes from free radical damage and keep your eyesight clear and focused.

These antioxidants also fight off the oxidative damage that lead to cataracts.

And when it comes to mental function?

Well, it turns out that Alzheimer’s patients tend to have much lower concentrations of lutein than people without the disease. This may explain low macular density is so closely linked to mental decline.

On the other hand, adequate levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, along with other carotenes, are consistently related with better brain function. Lutein, in particular, is especially protective for brain health in people who are in their 80’s.

So these two antioxidants carry a lot of power when it comes to staying independent – both visually and mentally – as you age.

Now, neither of these nutrients is hard to find.

That’s because dark leafy greens such as kale, turnip greens, collards, spinach and chard all pack a hefty dose of both lutein and zeaxanthin. This makes them especially easy to add to your diet.

If you want to supplement, I suggest looking for an eye formula that contains at least 12 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin and taking it daily.

Remember, the time to start protecting your eyes and brain is now, not after you start experiencing problems.

Resources:

Kiko T, et al. Significance of lutein in red blood cells of Alzheimer’s disease patients. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;28(3):593-600.

Renzi LM, et al. Relationships between macular pigment optical density and cognitive function in unimpaired and mildly cognitively impaired older adults. Neurobiol Aging. 2014 Jul;35(7):1695-9.

Manayi A, et al. Lutein and cataract: from bench to bedside. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2015 Jun 8:1-11.

Kelly D, Et al. Cognitive Function and Its Relationship with Macular Pigment Optical Density and Serum Concentrations of its Constituent Carotenoids. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2015 Aug;48(1):261-277.

Krinsky NI, et al. Biologic mechanisms of the protective role of lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye. Annu Rev Nutr. 2003;23:171-201.

Johnsons EJ, et al. Relationship between Serum and Brain Carotenoids, -Tocopherol, and Retinol Concentrations and Cognitive Performance in the Oldest Old from the Georgia Centenarian Study. Journal of Aging Research Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 951786.

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