Intake What Counts:
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with a lowered risk for ARMD. Presumably, this protection is the result of increased intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. However, various "non-essential" food components, such as the nonprovitamin A carotenes (carotenes that are not converted to vitamin A) lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene, along with flavonoids, are proving to be even more significant in protecting against ARMD than traditional nutritional antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. For example, one study compared patients with age-related macular degeneration to healthy controls. Individuals with low levels of lycopene were found to be twice as likely to have age-related macular degeneration.
The macula, especially the central portion (the fovea), owes its yellow color to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin. These yellow carotenes function in preventing oxidative damage to the area of the retina responsible for fine vision and obviously play a central role in protecting against the development of macular degeneration.
The best way to protect against ARMD is through diet. In particular, regular consumption of foods rich in the important carotenes for the eye is highly recommended. In addition, lutein and zeaxanthin are also available in pill form. These are three primary types of carotene supplements on the market:
1) Synthetic all-trans-beta-carotene
2) Beta- and alpha-carotene from the algae Dunaliella
3) Mixed carotenes from palm oil
Important Carotenes For The Eye:
Lycopene - Food sources; Tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, apricots, pink grapefruit
Zeaxanthin - Spinach, Paprika, corn, fruits
Lutein - Green plants, corn, potatoes, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, fruits
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The Lens Of The Eye:
Cataracts create a tremendous financial burden on our society. Among U.S. Medicare recipients, cataract surgery is the most common major surgical procedure, costing $600,000 each year. Cataracts can be classified by location and appearance of the lens opacities, by cause or significant contributing factor, and by age of onset. Many factors may cause or contribute to the progression of lens opacity, including; ocular disease, injury, or surgery; systemic disease (e.g., diabetes mellitus, galactosemia); exposure to toxins, radiation, or ultraviolet and near-ultraviolet light; and hereditary disease. The lens of the eye is, obviously, a vital component of the visual system due to its ability to focus light (via changes in shape while maintaining transparency. Unfortunately, this transparency decreases with age. The majority of people over sixty years of age display some degree of cataract formation. With normal aging there is a progressive increase in size, weight, and density of the lens, but although cataracts are common they should not be considered normal.
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In cataract formation, the normal protective mechanisms are unable to prevent free-radical damage totally. The lens, like many other tissues of the body, is dependant on adequate levels and activities of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione (GSH) and adequate levels of the accessory antioxidants vitamins E and C and selenium to aid in preventing free-radical damage. Individuals with higher dietary intakes of vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenes have a much lower risk of developing cataracts.
The power of Vitamin C:
Several clinical studies have demonstrated that vitamin C supplementation can halt cataract progression and, in some cases, significantly improve vision. For example, in one study conducted in 1939, 450 patients with cataracts were placed on a nutritional program that included 1 gram of vitamin C per day, which resulted in a significant reduction in cataract development. Though similar patients had previously required surgery within four years, among the vitamin-C-treated patients only a small number required surgery. During the eleven-year period of the study, most of the vitamin-C-treated patients showed no evidence that the cataracts progressed.
Did You Know?
That refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour) are known to contribute to problems with blood sugar control, especially hypoglycemia. The association between hypoglycemia and impaired mental function is well known. Unfortunately, most individuals who experience depression, anxiety, or other psycological conditions are rarely tested for hypoglycemia, nor are they prescribed a diet that restricts refined carbohydrates. Numerous studies of depressed individuals have shown a high occurrence of hypoglycemia. Because depression is one of the most frequent causes of anxiety, this provides a link between hypoglycemia and feelings of stress. Simply eliminating refined carbohydrates from the diet is sometimes all that is needed for effective therapy in patients who have depression or anxiety due to hypoglycemia.
What's really being affected:
One of the key dietary recommendations to support the adrenal glands is to ensure adequate potassium levels within the body. This can best be done by consuming foods rich in potassium and avoiding foods high in sodium.
Mealtimes should be spent in a relaxed environment. As noted above, digestion is a process largely controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. Eating in a rushed manner or in a noisy environment is not conducive to good digestion or good health. It is important to plan meals out in advance to avoid eating on the run or under stress.
People with symtoms of anxiety or chronic fatigue need to investigate possible food allergies. As far back as 1930, noted allergist Dr. Albert Rowe noticed that anxiety and fatigue were key features associated with food allergies. Originally, Dr. Rowe described a syndrome he called allergic toxemia, with symptoms that included anxiety, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, drowsiness, difficulty in concentration, and depression. Around the 1950s, this syndrome became referred to as the allergic tension-fatigue syndrome. With the current focus on chronic fatigue syndrome, many physicians and other people are forgetting that food allergies can lead to chronic fatigue.
It's All About Dietary Antioxidants:
Did you know the free-radical theory of aging really lends itself to intervention. Compounds that prevent free-radical damage are known as antioxidants or "free-radical scavengers."
The body has several enzymes that prevent the damage induced by specific types of free radicals. For example, superoxide dismutase (SOD) prevents the damage caused by the toxic oxygen molecule know as superoxide. Catalase and glutathione peroxidase are two other antioxidant enzymes found in the human body. The level of antioxidant enzymes, as well as the level of dietary antioxidants such as beta-carotene, determines the life span of mammals. Human beings live longer than chimpanzees, cats, dogs, and many other mammals because we have a greater quantity of antioxidants within our cells. Some strains of mice live longer than other strains because they have higher levels of antioxidant enzymes. Presumably, the reason why some people outlive others is that they have higer levels of antioxidants in their cells.
This line of thinking is largely the reason many progressive-minded physicians recommend increasing the level of antioxidant mechanisms within cells.
It is unlikely that antioxidant enzyme levels within cells can be increased by taking antioxidant enzymes such as SOD and glutathione peroxidase orally. Human subjects who take a tablet containing SOD do not appear to increase the level of SOD in their blood or tissues. Enzyme levels may be increased, however, by taking other dietary antioxidants. Several studies in animals have demonstrated that dietary antioxidants can definately increase life expectancy. We are just beginning to see human evidence. What we do know now is that antioxidant nutrients reduce the risk of getting cancer, heart disease, and many diseases linked to aging, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and arthritis. Dietary antioxidants of extreme significance in life-extension include vitam C and E, selenium, beta-carotene, flavonoids, sulfur-containing amino acids, and coenzyme Q10. Not surprisingly, these same nutrients are also of extreme significance in cancer prevention, as aging and cancer share many common mechanisms. Perhaps the most important dietary antioxidants for longevity are carotene molecules. Carotene represent the most widespread group of naturally occurring pigments in plant life. For many people (physicians included), the term "carotene" is synonymous with "provitamin A," but only thirty to fifty of the more than four hundred carotenoids that have been characterized are believed to have vitamin A activity.
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