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PIA Press Release

Feature: Improve vision with proper nutrition

by GP Yuchingtat

Legazpi City (2 June) -- Eyes need sustenance to stay healthy in the same way that bones need calcium. Proper nutrition and regular examinations are vital to eye health, particularly as people age.

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss for people 50 years old and over. It consists of injury to the macula and leads to severe loss in vision.

"Macular degeneration gradually destroys the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving, identifying the face of a loved one, watching television and performing daily tasks. In some cases, macular degeneration advances slowly that people will see little effect on their vision as they age," said Dr. Michael Cooney, a New York City ophthalmologist who has done extensive search in eye health and macular degeneration.

According to Dr. Daniel Garrett, a senior vice president of Prevent Blindness America, "There is no cure for macular degeneration and a person must consider how this disease can affect daily life and take preventive steps before it is too late."

There are several risk factors for macular degeneration including family history, aging, smoking and inadequate nutrition. Also, the sun may cause damage to the sensitive tissue in the eye. Research has proven that lutein and omega-3 fats are two nutrients critical to eye health.

Lutein is the main pigment or coloring chemical in the center of the retina, the region of maximum visual sensitivity known as the macula. It appears to act as a natural eyeshade, protecting the retina against too much light. It is also an antioxidant, meaning that it fights dangerous, naturally-occurring substances called free radicals. Free radicals may play a role in macular degeneration.

Lutein, although not an essential nutrient, is still useful for optimal health. It plays an important role in protecting our eyes and eyesight. Lutein works by acting directly as a kind of natural sunblock and neutralizing free radicals that damage the eye. Dark, leafy, green vegetables are the best source of lutein, especially spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, leeks, peas and water cress. Although it is a member of a family of substances known as carotenoids of which beta-carotene is the famous nutrient in this class, lutein is not found in high concentrations in yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots.

According to the Journal of American Medical Association in a Seddon study conducted at Harvard University, the highest correlation of macular degeneration prevention was associated with an intake of 6 milligrams or 0.0067 grams per day of lutein or more or less the size of one grain, which led to 43 per cent lower prevalence of the disease.

Eating fish and omega-3 fish oils may likewise protect people against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A specific fish fat, called decosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega-3, may help protect and promote healthy retinal function. DHA is also concentrated in the retina of the eye. Its presence enhances the development of photoreceptors, specialized cells in the retina necessary for vision.

DHA is found almost exclusively in fish and shellfish or fish oils, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and pilchards. All seafoods have some DHA too. Eggyolks from hens fed flaxseed have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and some DHA. Newly-developed yogurt, margarines, spreads and other foods may have omega-3 added to them.

Check the food product's label to see what fatty acids it contains. If specific fatty acids are not mentioned, assume the omega-3 is ALA. There are actually three main omega-3s in foods: ALA, EPA (or eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA. Only ALA is found in plants. EPA and DHA are found almost exclusively in fish and shellfish or fish oils.

Eating a diet high in Vitamins C and E also lowers the chances of developing macular degeneration. Food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits or citrus juices, berries, green and red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and spinach. Food sources of vitamin E are whole grains, such as wheat and oats, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, sardines, egg yolks and nuts.

For more information on food and nutrition, write or call: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguid City; Tel/Fax Nos.: 8372934 and 8373164; email:,; FNRI-DOST website: (FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service/PIA) [top]

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