Fish oil reduces age-related blindness

October 14, 2009

New U.S. study shows that intake of fish oil may reduce the incidence of age-related blindness by 30%

There seems to be no end to blessings from fish oil.

Fish oil is the end stages in the development of omega-3 fatty acids which is transformed from alpha-linolenic acid in a number of processes to E.g. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which then are converted to prostaglandin E 3 with a wide range of health-promoting properties.

The fish oils EPA and DHA are some of the strongest anti-inflammatory nutrients, we can consume. This is probably one of the reasons why they reduce the risk of blood clots, but they also reduces blood triglycerides, reduces inflammation in rheumatic diseases, enhances children’s learning capacity, reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia (pregnancy–induced high blood pressure) and premature birth, and gives brighter children from pregnant women who took fish oil and much more.

It is indeed difficult to see the end of the health-promoting properties, we can get from fish oil, and new scientific findings seems to emerge all the time which support its use.

Thus, even last week when researchers from the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, MD, USA, 7 October published a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Scientists have over 12 years studied 1,837 people with moderate to severe risk of age-related central blindness in the form of central atrophy or macular degeneration.

For both types of blindness, it appeared that the incidence was 30% lower in the group that took the most fish oil (0.11% of total caloric intake) compared with the group that took the least.

Although previous studies have been uncertain in its conclusions, the authors believe that the figures can be generalized, this is both a cheap and readily available intervention opportunity against risk families with high incidence of these diseases.

In times when the collective consensus have shouted in our ears that we should eat less fat, it is important to use common sense, read the research properly and stand firm.

Fat is healthy, and fat is vital!

One should obviously not wallow in margarine, french fries and chips, but make sure to eat well from the healthy fats as olive oil and especially fish oil.

It can be ingested as a liquid, as capsules, or as very attractive food.

Fish is not only healthy but also tastes very good indeed. Many people are nevertheless troubled by the increasing presence of heavy metals in fish, but if you avoid the large predatory fish as swordfish and tuna, there is significantly less in for example salmon and trout, especially if they are caught in clean rivers and lakes.

There are however problems with farmed fish, which often contains pretty much omega-6 fat, due to the fish feed composition. And this we should avoid. We already get far too much omega-6, especially linoleic acid, found in the cheap cooking oils with corn and sunflower oil, so as to avoid further bias, we must select the oily fish that are caught in the wild and not farmed.

We must remind you that in a previous newsletter we described two studies that showed that even eggs contain substances that prevent the age-related central blindness, so it may be, we soon will see a Danish ban against bread with eggs and herring. In Denmark food is not allowed to prevent a disease!

Enjoy your meal.

By: Claus Hancke, MD 

References:
• Sangiovanni JP, Agron E, et al. Omega-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and 12-y incidence of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and central geographic atrophy: a prospective cohort study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, Am J Clin Nutr, 2009 Oct 7 (E-pub. Ahead of print)
• Mares JA, Larowe TL, et al. Predictors of optical density of lutein and zeaxanthin in retinas of older women in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study, an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr., 2006, 84(5): 1107-1122.
• Wenzel AJ, Gerweck C, et al. A 12-wk egg intervention increases serum zeaxanthin and macular pigment optical density in women. J Nutr., 2006; 136(10):2568-73.

Fat is beneficial for the eyes

June 15, 2009

Two new studies suggest that the most common cause of functional blindness is preventable with healthy fatty acids.

This newsletter has previously suggested that certain vitamins and other nutrients have a preventive effect against the age-related macular degeneration (AMD), meaning a degeneration of the cones in the macula. The cells of the retina responsible for our central vision and our color vision.

Recently two new scientific studies have appeared from Australia, which very convincingly make probable that it is the healthy fatty acids that prevent this frequent visual impairment.

The first study showed that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and low intake of linoleic acid protect against AMD.

In this study, 2,454 people were followed for up to 10 years, where the incidence of AMD related to their intake of fish, nuts or fatty acids in the form of supplements was recorded.

The study showed a risk reduction of 31% and 35% in those who regularly ate fish and nuts or consumed n-3 fatty acids (fish oil and flaxseed oil) and the authors advise you to make an effort to attain this and avoid a diet rich in linoleic acid that occurs especially in the cheap cooking oils e.g. corn oil.

The second study showed that high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and olive oil reduces the risk of AMD, and that a high intake of trans fatty acids increase the risk.

Data from 6,734 people between 58 and 69 years was examined.
It turned out that the highest intake of trans fatty acids increased the risk of AMD by 76% compared to the lowest.

To the contrary a high intake of fish oil also here showed a reduced risk (15%).
But most compelling was that a high intake of olive oil reduced the risk of AMD with whole 52%.

The healthy essential fatty acids is beneficial for virtually every cell in the body and bad fats can cause just as much harm.

So again in these fat frightening times let´s strike a blow for the good fat we should eat much more of

By: Claus Hancke, MD

References:
• “Dietary fatty acids and the 10-year incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study,” Tan JS, Wang JJ, et al, Arch Ophthalmol, 2009; 127(5): 656-65.
• “Fat consumption and its association with age-related macular degeneration,” Chong EW, Robman LD, et al, Arch Ophthalmol, 2009; 127(5): 674-80

Promising treatment for macular degeneration

December 22, 2007

New orthomolecular treatment named as the “first choice” for AMD, otherwise known macula degeneration.

In the November 28, 2006 edition of the Vitality Council Newsletter we reported on a study which indicated that eating eggs, which contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine, has positive effects on AMD.

Almost two years ago we described a maybe even more important study undertaken at the University of Rome. It showed that normal recommended doses of simple dietary supplements prevents the most common form of blindness, the age related degeneration of the retina otherwise known as “retinal calcification.” This is what medical professionals call AMD. About one in eight people over the age of 85 have AMD severe enough to cause vision loss.

This study has recently been published again, giving us grounds to discuss AMD in more detail.

One does not become completely blind due to AMD. Peripheral vision is still maintained, enabling one to orient themselves in a room or go for a walk. Even so, AMD does cause handicap. Central vision is lost, which means that the ability to see shapely is lost. Therefore reading is impossible, seeing the TV, cooking, using tools, working on the computer, and recognising friends and family is difficult. A grey dot in the middle of the field of vision replaces everyone’s faces.

Central sight is governed by a yellow spot on the eye’s retina where the highest concentration of colour registering cones is found. This is why one of the first things lost in AMD is colour vision.

The changes in AMD can be directly observed on the retina when one looks into the eye. In the early stages it is characterized by small or larger deposits of yellowish waste products in the eye. Every one of these deposits represents a hole in the field of vision. This is unnoticeable so long as these hoses are small. Almost everyone over the age of 50 has at least one of these deposits, but if there are many deposits of greater size, the risk for blindness is great.

Severe cases of AMD can be characterised by an accumulation of larger deposits alone. This is called dry AMD. Another, and more dangerous, form is the so called wet AMD. In this form “leaky” blood vessels grow in under the retina, possibly as the body’s effort to bring more energy to the retina. The result is that liquid seeps out of these vessels causing total destruction of central vision. This can occur very quickly, but with quick intervention of an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) the new blood vessels can be blocked with laser treatment and vision can be saved in many cases.

The deposits and new blood vessels lead to the creation of dents in the retina. In severe cases scars form and pull on the retina. This leads to vision where straight lines seem bent. Often, but not always, one can discover the beginnings of AMD by holding a piece of graph paper at a normal reading distance and looking at it one eye at a time. If the lines are curved, an eye doctor should be consulted immediately.

New methodology
The republished study mentioned earlier is a double blinded study that showed with statistical certainty an improvement in the sight of patients with early stage AMD after they received a combination of n-3 fatty acids, Q10, and L-carnitine. The improvement in sight, which was slight, was first present after 3-6 months, after which sight remained stable until the end of the study one year later. This effect lasted even longer in a following study. It was also observed that the number of deposits decreased! This is important and very promising. Improvement occurred primarily for those with mild cases, but also for some with more severe AMD. Early diagnosis is paramount.

The theory behind these finds is that AMD is a disease of the mitochondria, which means that it is a disease which affects energy production in the cells. This is supported by the fact that cells from AMD affected retinas have more damaged mitochondria than normal cells when viewed under and electron microscope. The logic behind the treatment used in the study is therefore the following:

The vitamin-like substance carnitine is necessary for mitochondrial fat uptake and metabolism.

The fat is added as n-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil. N-3 fats compose no less than 30% of the structure of the retina!

Q10 can be understood as the motor’s sparkplug. It optimises metabolism so that energy production can start. The body’s own Q10 production falls with age and because of this, and carnitine deficiency, there becomes less energy available. It is hardly coincidental that patients with wet AMD have less Q10 in their blood than normal.

This important study powerfully indicates that quick action can stop newly diagnosed AMD. The authors strongly believe that their treatment should be the treatment of choice for newly diagnosed AMD.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Feher et al. Metabolic therapy for early treatment of age-related macula degeneration. Orv Hetil 2007;148:2259-68.
2. Feher et al. Improvement of visual functions and fundus alterations in early age-related macular degeneration treated with a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine and coenzyme Q10. Ophtalmologica 2005;219:154-66
3. Feher et al. Mitotropic compounds for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. The metabolic approach and a pilot study. Ophtalmologica 2003;217:351-7
4. Blasi et al. Does coenzyme Q10 play a role in opposing oxidative stress in patients with age-related macular degeneration? Ophtalmologica 2001;215:51-54.
5. Feher J et al. Mitochondrial alterations of retinal pigment epithelium in age-related macular degeneration. Neurobiol Aging 2005;June 22: 15979212.

Remember your daily egg

November 28, 2006

Two new studies indicate that important nutrients, contained in, among other things, egg, play a part in the prevention of the most common type of age related blindness.

Macular degeneration, otherwise known as retinal calcification, is the degeneration of retinal cells in the eye’s macula (a yellow spot in the middle of the eye which is the centre of the visual field and has a high concentration of cells responsible for colour vision). Because the macula is in the centre of the eye, if one looses cells in the macula, one also looses sight in the centre of the eye. This means that peripheral vision is retained. With macular degeneration, it is possible to become oriented in, for example, a room, but it is difficult to see what lies directly ahead, including faces, the TV, or a newspaper. One retains ones sense of space, but is functionally blind. It is very irritating for sufferers because they cannot recognize their children or close friends it they meet them on the street. They cannot see their faces, only a black dot.

The first sign of macular degeneration is that straight lines aren’t seen as being straight, but bend so that text and the blinds in front of the window “bulge.” The next sign is the loss of colour vision, because the macula has the highest concentration of colour discerning cells (cones) in the eye.

Earlier studies have shown that it is possible to reduce the risk of macular degeneration with certain antioxidants. Recent studies are interesting because thy have shown that natural measures can be used to in increase the retina’s contents of important chemicals, thereby decreasing the risk of macular degeneration.

At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA, an analysis of 1,700 older women from the huge Women’s Health Initiative (a study over what it now a period of 15 years including 161,000 women of the ages 50 – 79) showed that their density of macula pigment was positively correlated with the amount of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet and negatively correlated with diabetes and obesity.

A coinciding intervention study was undertaken at the University of New Hampshire, USA, where a group of 24 women, aged 24-59, ate 6 eggs weekly over a period of 12 weeks.

Both lutein and zeaxanthin is found in eggs yolks from which they are readily absorbed into the blood and thereafter concentrated in the retina.

One group received eggs with 331 micrograms lutein and zeaxanthin per yolk. Another received eggs with 964 micrograms lutein and zeaxanthin per yolk and a third group received a daily sugar pill, which they were told contained lutein and zeaxanthin.

I both of the groups which ate the daily egg their levels of lutein and zeaxanthin increased. The same was not true of the group which received the sugar pill. This effect was known from earlier studies with eggs, but this study went one step further and measured the participants density of macula pigment as well as serum – cholesterol and triglycerides at the start of the study and after 4, 8, and 12 weeks.

Serum – cholesterol was not increased in either of the groups which received eggs, but both cholesterol and triglyceride levels increased significantly in the participants who received sugar pills.

Conversely, serum zeaxanthin (not lutein) as well as, importantly, the retina’s content of sight pigment increased in the eggs groups, but not in the sugar group.

Even though there are significantly more carotenoids in vegetables, such as spinach, the authors of the study prefer eggs because of their high bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin.

It is nice to, one more time, establish that eggs are good. And they don’t taste too bad either!

By: Vitality Council

References:
• Mares JA, Larowe TL, et al. Predictors of optical density of lutein and zeaxanthin in retinas of older women in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study, an ancillary study of the Women’s Health Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr., 2006, 84(5): 1107-1122.
• Wenzel AJ, Gerweck C, et al. A 12-wk egg intervention increases serum zeaxanthin and macular pigment optical density in women. J Nutr., 2006; 136(10): 2568-2573.

www.ajcn.org
jn.nutrition.org/contents-by-date.0.shtml

Antioxidants against macular degeneration and blindness

March 9, 2006

Antioxidants can delay the most common cause of blindness in Denmark. It looks like they also can prevent it. Other supplements can possibly directly improve the sight – if they are taken early enough.

The most common cause of blindness in the U.K. is macular degeneration, also known as AMD. AMD is the age related degeneration of the area of the eye (retina) where light is collected, like rays hitting a magnifying glass, causing sharp sight. This degeneration thereby causes blurred sight. Thousands of people in the U.K. are affected by AMD each year. Many more suffer from other forms of poor sight.

The more mild forms of AMD are quite common. With these forms, sight is reduces to such a small degree that the loss is normally not noticed. Optometrists can ascertain such mild forms of AMD with the finding of small yellow spots on the retina under an eye exam. These defects are composed of accumulated waste products. Almost everyone over the age of 50 has at least one such defect. Small defects are unimportant, even when there are many. But, if they are larger there is a risk of serious AMD. About 30% of those with larger defects will have advanced AMD within five years.

Therefore it created a sensation when, in 2001, an American study showed that this five year risk could be reduced to 20%, meaning by a third, with the supplement of zinc and antioxidants. The doses given in the study were: 500 mg vitamin C, 400 units vitamin E, 15 micrograms beta-carotene as wall as no less than 80 mg zinc per day. Treatment with antioxidants alone appeared to be just as effective, but could not be proven statistically.

But how does one know if one has the early stages of AMD? Because the loss of sight in such cases is minimal, one might not go to an eye doctor. Therefore it is recommended that everyone over the age of 55 undergo an eye exam so they can consider whether or not they should take supplements. Because beta-carotene has been reported to cause lung cancer in smokers, this advice is only relevant to non-smokers.

Antioxidants can also inhibit the development of AMD, but this use is not often considered. The question however remains whether antioxidants can prevent AMD from occurring in the first place. A new Dutch study implies that they can.

Sharper sight
In this study 6,000 residents of Rotterdam were followed starting from the years 1990-93. In 2004 560 of them had AMD, but it was not entirely random who developed AMD. Both a high intake of zinc and vitamin E lowered the risk, but only a little. If one received high doses of both vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc, the risk of developing AMD was reduced an impressive 35%.

An Italian randomised study published last year showed even more intriguing results. In this study 106 patients with an early form of AMD were treated over the course of a few years with a combination of fish oil (n-3 fatty acids), the antioxidant Q10, as well as the dietary supplement, carnitine. The goal was to improve the fatty acid metabolism of the retina. Carnitine advanced the metabolizing of fat such that the depositing of waste products was counteracted. This is important in the retina seeing that the concentration of n-3 fatty acids is even richer than in brain tissue. 30% of the matter in the retina is composed of n-3 fatty acids as opposed to 20 % in the brain.

The result, with regards to light sensitivity in centre of the eye, visual acuity (measured with a normal eye chart), and perceptual changes in the retina, was not only the progress of the disease was stopped, but that there was also a direct improvement! The area of the eye where defects could be seen was not just unchanged, but had shrunken! All of this was statistically sound.

With advanced AMD one is both blind and can see. One cannot read, watch TV, or recognize faces. But peripheral vision is retained. One can see out of the corner of the eye, so it is still possible to orientate oneself in space and walk, with care. This functional blindness can, in many cases, be improved by antioxidants and, according to the above mentioned research; the condition can even be improved by simple dietary supplements, if they are taken in time.

By: Vitality Council

References:
1. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group.Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Oct;119(10):1417-36. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8.
2. Feher J et al. Ophthalmologica. 2005 May-Jun;219(3):154-66.Improvement of visual functions and fundus alterations in early age-related macular degeneration treated with a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine, n-3 fatty acids, and coenzyme Q10.
3. van Leeuwen R et al. JAMA. 2005 Dec 28;294(24):3101-7. Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of age-related macular degeneration.

content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp
jama.ama-assn.org

Listen to this: Vitamins Preserve the Hearing!

February 3, 2005

Studies with guinea pigs and American soldiers show that large doses of the vitamins C and E prevent chronic hearing impairment caused by noise. The conclusion is important, as every tenth grown-up has impaired hearing.

Do you have difficulties hearing? If so, the cause might be a vitamin deficiency. This is the result of a study carried out at the renowned Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden – the hospital is known throughout the world for being the place in which the staff scientists decide who gets the annual Nobel Prize for medicine.

The study showed that if the guinea pigs were given large doses of the vitamins C and -E before and after a violent noise impact, they would avoid the chronic hearing impairment that would otherwise be the result. Studies of American soldiers at target practice have shown similar results.

Impaired hearing is more common than you would probably think. 10% of all adults have so serious hearing difficulties that it affects their everyday communication. The prevalence increases with age, but many people become hearing impaired when they are young if they have a liking for violent music or if they have some sort of genetic predisposition for being sensitive to noise.

Professor Mats Ulfendahl from The Center for Hearing and Communication Research at the Karolinska University Hospital is behind the study. It was based on the knowledge that noise produces free oxygen radicals in the sensory cells of the inner ear and that these radicals are responsible for destroying the sensory cells.

For this reason, it was logical to try to limit the damage by supplying antioxidants to the guinea pigs. Ulfendahl presented the results at a congress about hearing impairment at the Karolinska University Hospital in September 2004.

Mats Ulfendahl is among the world’s leading researchers in hearing impairment and, among other things, he has demonstrated that there are stem cells in the inner ear that can develop into mature auditory- and neve cells. He believes that this discovery can imply that during the next 10 – 20 years, people suffering from aquired deafness can have their hearing restored. If he is right, it is hardly unlikely that his colleagues at the Karolinska University Hospital will nominate him for the Nobel Prize.

At present, there is no method for repairing damaged auditory cells in humans. Birds, however, automatically regenerate their hearing when they become deaf as a result of a noise injury. The thought of restoring hearing, therefore, is not fundamentally impossible. If you are considering some kind of prophylaxis before going to a disco, for example, it would probably be a good idea to consider taking a megadose vitamin supplement.

By: Vitality Council

References:
This time we do not refer to a scientific article, but an online introduction by a Swedish professor and a speech (in Swedish), which you may listen to directly at the web addresses below:
1) Can vitamins really soothe impaired hearing? ( Kan verkligen vitaminer lindra hörselnedsättning? ) http://www.hrf.se/templates/Page2x1____3855.aspx
2) Take a vitamin pill and then listen! ( Ta en vitamin och hör sen! )
http://www.karolinska.se/templates/Page.aspx?id=39736

www.hrf.se/templates/Page2x1____3855.aspx
www.karolinska.se/templates/Page.aspx
www.iom.dk