Beat blindness with better nutrition

Like it or not, America’s baby boomers are getting older. And with that collective ticking of the clock has come a boom of a different sort — namely, a sharp uptick in age-related disease.

It’s to be expected, obviously. But it’s not as inevitable as some would have you believe. (I’m looking at you, Big Pharma.) In fact, good nutrition can go a long way toward stalling the aging process — and in some cases, even reversing it. (Or as I like to call it, “aging younger.”)

Of course, the mainstream is too busy peddling their prescription drugs to bother telling you any of this. Which is why it’s always nice to come across articles that highlight the importance of diet and lifestyle in disease prevention.

To my delight, that’s exactly what I came across the other day. The topic: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — a leading cause of vision loss. This condition affects an upwards of two million people in the U.S. alone.

As the name suggests, AMD affects your macula, which is the part of your eye that deals with central vision. Advanced forms of the disease — also known as “wet” AMD — are marked by abnormal blood vessel growth beneath and into the retina. This damages tissues and can cause severe vision loss.

There’s no cure for AMD — though there are treatments that can halt its progress, including intravitreal injection. (Yes, you read that right — eye injections.) Previous research has shown that avoiding cigarettes and obesity can help prevent AMD, too. (No surprises there.)

But targeted nutrition is another solution. About as obvious as solutions get, if you ask me.

You see, your retina is particularly vulnerable to the effects of oxidative stress. Which means that any compound that’s able to counteract this kind of damage — in other words, one that acts as an antioxidant — is also going to be able to protect against AMD.

But the proof is in the pudding as they say — or in this case, in the results of the famous Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).

This study found that a specific combo of antioxidants and minerals — among them, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper — was able to reduce the risk of advanced AMD development by a quarter over a period of five years. A follow-up study, AREDS 2, found similar benefits from lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation.

And that’s just for starters. Daily dietary choices can make a big difference — in this case, you’ll want to increase omega-3 and antioxidant intake with ample servings of fatty fish and leafy greens.

But what you don’t eat also matters. And that list, as always, should include sugar in all its forms.

Not surprisingly, research shows that eating a high glycemic index diet significantly increases your AMD risk. Not least of all because sugar- and carb-rich diets ramp up the accumulation of advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs. (These are the toxic byproducts that are formed when protein meets with sugar in your body — and they’re implicated in a whole host of age-related diseases, including AMD.)

There’s even research showing that your microbiome could play a role — and that changes in gut bacteria with both aging and diet may be at least partially responsible for the biological mechanisms that fuel AMD.

Granted, a lot of these findings have been in animals so far. But this is one case where I’m all too happy to be a lab rat — because there’s nothing to lose and years of clear vision to gain.

And since I can’t imagine why AMD prevention wouldn’t be a priority for you as well, I encourage you to go back and read all about it in the June 2013 issue of my monthly newsletter Logical Health Alternatives. (Subscribers can access this article, along with every other article I’ve ever written, in the archives — simply log in with your username and password. So if you haven’t signed up yet, there’s no better time than right now.)