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.