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Eye Health and Computers, bilberry, zeaxanthin, lutein,

March 1998 - Print | Index

Since you are reading this newsletter, you probably spend a lot of time bathing your eyes and brain in rays from a computer monitor. A weekend in the country can't be beat for de-stressing and restoring balance, but what can you do right now? Certain nutrients aid in preventing and restoring computer-tired eyes.

Below is a FAQ page about nutrition and eyes. We have seen a number of articles through the years detailing the role of nutrients in helping to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. We link to some of these (including a concise article on our site). Let us know other questions you may have about eye nutrients, and definitely let us know your suggestions, too!

How does viewing a computer screen cause eyestrain?
Any bright light causes eye strain. The eyes are in a constant process of rebuilding their chemical and nerve reserves as these are depleted from light entering the eyes. For instance, when working at a monitor, the eyes tire as the visual purple is quickly broken down under the influence of bright, flickering light. The flickering quality of the screen output also causes a strain on the eye nerves, which in some people can cause severe eye strain.

Why do eye formulas contain many of the same ingredients?
Any nutrient that enhances the integrity of the circulatory system and nervous system helps the eyes. The eyes have more relative blood flow than any tissue in the body, and they also contain specialized nerve cells. The health of the eyes is a good mirror to the condition of the body. So it makes sense that your basic anti-oxidants, such as C, E, A, selenium, and the carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, will help protect and repair the eyes, by preventing free radical damage. Also, the last two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, are actually found in both the macula and the retina.

How does Bilberry function as an eye nutrient?
Bright light decomposes rhodopsin (visual purple). Regeneration of visual purple is a slow process. Bilberries contain anthocyanosides which accelerate the production of rhodopsin. Anthocyanosides are also potent antioxidants which help improve blood flow to the eye.

How were the visual benefits of bilberry discovered?
During World War II British Royal Air Force pilots reported improved nighttime visual acuity on bombing raids after consuming bilberries. Later studies showed that administration of bilberry extracts to healthy subjects resulted in improved nighttime visual acuity, quicker adjustment to darkness, and faster restoration of visual acuity after exposure to glare.

How does beta-carotene function as an eye nutrient?
Although not found in the retina or macula as are lutein and zeaxanthin, studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher beta carotene levels in their blood have a significant reduction in the risk of eye disease, especially macular degeneration. The beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A, retinal, which functions as a co-enzyme with rod and cone opsin (an optic protein), which traps the light in vision and triggers the neurological response in the optic nerve.

Vitamin A also prevents keratinization of the eyes, and with A's reduction ability, prevents cross-linkage of proteins. Vitamin A, of course, prevents night blindness (nyctalopia).

How do lutein and zeaxanthin function as eye nutrients?
Lutein and zeaxanthin reduce free-radical damage caused by high energy light from the blue end of the spectrum, especially damage to lipid components of the retina.

A description of Nature's Life eye products
Lutein i Care™
A doctor-formulated combination of carotenoids, zinc and copper in optimum amounts to maintain healthy retina and macula for clear vision. Lutein i Care™ contains lutein, a carotenoid found in the macula and retina of the eye. Lutein, zeaxanthin and the antioxidant beta carotene protect the eye's retina and macula from free radical damage.

Bilberry i Sight™
A doctor-formulated combination of bilberry extract & carotenoids, with vitamins C, E, B2 and B3. Bilberry, a bioflavonoid-rich, blue-violet berry high in anthocyanosides, nourishes and protects the lenses of the eye. The antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin C help to protect the lens from free radical damage and to maintain a clear, healthy lens.

Is there any help for plain 'ol sore eyes?
Yes. Rest the eyes several times a day, using an eye pillow or by palming. Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke, excess sunlight and other radiation. Do not use steroids! And supplement your diet with a good antioxidant formula that includes some or all of the nutrients discussed here.
Also see Nature's Life article on Eyes

What are cataracts and what nutrients help prevent them?
Cataract disease occurs when the lens becomes damaged causing a lack of transparency, interfering with vision. Nutrients known to help prevent cataracts include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta-Carotene, Vitamin B-2, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Bilberry.

What is macular degeneration and what nutrients help prevent it?
Macular degeneration refers to loss of vision when the center of the retina, known as the macula, degenerates. The center of the visual field fails first, and this can widen until the person is blind. Nutrients known to help prevent macular degeneration include the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, and zinc.

Food Irradiation -- "Protecting" Us?

Reprinted with permission from Better Nutrition Magazine, February, 1998

The recent mass-media coverage of food irradiation has obscured the real issues. In truth: 1) the answer to a safe food supply depends on whether the mainstream food industry accepts its responsibility to clean up its act -- for good; 2) the fact that irradiation doesn't turn our food radioactive is not a relief considering its real dangers; and 3) the public is rightfully suspicious of this bizarre solution to very real problems with our food supply.

Toxicologist Marcia van Gemert, Ph.D., chaired a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committee that investigated 441 studies on irradiated foods in the 1980s. In 1993, Dr. van Gemert issued a statement outlining why "those studies were inadequate to evaluate the safety of irradiated foods." These are the studies which underpin the FDA's December 2nd decision approving the irradiation of red meat.

A 1975 clinical study in India, which appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at 15 malnourished children who were fed either irradiated or non-irradiated food. Eighty percent of the children fed irradiated food developed a pre-cancerous chromosomal disorder called polyploidy. A more recent study on 70 students in China (Chinese Medical Journal, 1987) also showed an increased rate of chromosomal abnormalities.

In addition, the "unique radiolytic products" (URP's), or toxins, produced through irradiation include: known carcinogens such as formaldehyde (used in embalming) and naphthalene (used in moth repellents), and others. If this were not enough, essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids are also destroyed at varying levels.

And what about long-term effects? With carcinogens like formaldehyde, "It will take 30 years before you see increases in neoplasias -- leukemias and lymphomas," warned George Tritsch, Ph.D., retired researcher from the Roswell Park Memorial Institute and the New York State Department of Health.

Whether it's Olestra yesterday, or irradiated food today, the FDA is sending a message to consumers that the public is not trusted to exercise personal responsibility or to observe the most basic food-preparation hygiene practices, respectively. More ominously, food processors will see this as the green light to continue to run filthy plants, to ignore sanitary food preparation regulations, and to use their record of tragic poisonings and fatalities to force widespread irradiation on us.

If public "demand" is in question, an August 25th CBS News poll found that, nationwide, 73 percent of those polled oppose food irradiation, and 77 percent say they would not eat irradiated food.

So what will irradiation accomplish? 1) It will offer short term litigation "protection" to food-processors, and will help them win huge food-chain contracts; 2) It will make irradiation companies very happy; and 3) It will fulfill the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) stated goal, through its Byproducts Utilization Program, to unload its stockpile of radioactive cesium 137 in order to drive Canadian cobalt 60 out of the market.

"Irradiation of food is not a story of protection of the American public," said Gary Cibbs, D.O., in his prophetic 1993 book, The Food That Would Last Forever: Understanding the Dangers of Food Irradiation (Avery Publishing, phone: 1-800-548-5757). "Rather it is a story of money, politics, and the embalming of the American diet. Food irradiation is a toxic time bomb."

-- James Gormley, Editor, Better Nutrition Magazine, February 1998

James Gormley has served as a managing editor for two of the most respected medical journals in the U.S., and as a social sciences/medical editor in book publishing. His nutrition articles cover important issues, keeping readers informed of the latest breakthroughs in nutritional approaches to optimal health and ongoing research into vitamins, botanicals, minerals, and other supplements.

In the news...

It's very gratifying to see nutrition and food supplements emerge as an important subject for the news media. The December 21st, 1998, issue of the New York Times had an excellent article, in which UNICEF says that fighting malnutrition is an investment that yields a large return, because micronutrients are cheap and require no refrigeration.

  • "More than 100 million young children have diets that lack vitamin A, crucial for preventing blindness and strengthening the immune system…. Giving a two cent capsule a few times a year cut their death rate from diarrhea and other infectious diseases by a quarter…."
  • "In combination with zinc supplements, vitamin A also helps children resist malaria. Giving pregnant women one low dose vitamin A or beta carotene capsule a week (high doses can damage the fetus) cuts the maternal mortality rate by nearly half…."
  • "Numerous studies suggest that taking vitamin A during pregnancy can also reduce the rate of H.I.V. transmission from mother to child…."
  • "Supplements of iron, zinc and folate (folic acid) also protect mothers and children…."
  • "Switzerland and the US have put iodine in salt since the 1920's to prevent mental retardation, but this was not done on a widespread basis until the 1990's… much of it paid for by the Kiwanis International Club."

The BEST of health to you!
Michael LeVesque, President

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products listed in this newsletter are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with your physician before taking any of these products.