Tag: Vitamin E

Eat for the Sake of Your Eyes

by Mia Syn, M.S., R.D.

Many of us know that adding carrots into the diet, is good for our eyes. What we may not realize is that there is a plethora of food and nutrients that can help keep vision sharp and slow the natural decline that occurs with age. Some of these nutrients include antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Knowing how these nutrients work within the eye and where to seek to them, is one way to help keep eyes looking and feeling healthy.

Nutrition and Your Eyes

The National Eye Institute encourages a healthy diet as being a key factor to eye health. (1) Age-related visual decline is inevitable for most individuals and the risk of developing eye diseases increases with age. (1)

There are several types of eye disorders. Two common types include cataracts, characterized by clouded vision, and diabetic retinopathy, a visual impairment brought on by high blood sugar damaging blood vessels in the retina. Additional conditions include dry eye disease marked by insufficient tear fluid and glaucoma characterized by degeneration of the optic nerve leading to poor vision or blindness. The leading cause of blindness in the developed world is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is caused by degradation of the central part of the retina called the macula, which controls visual acuity. (2) While genetics and age play a role in the development and progression of these diseases, diet and lifestyle also contribute, thus empowering us to make good choices.

Zeaxanthin and Lutein

Zeaxanthin and lutein – they aren’t only tongue twisters, but two carotenoid antioxidants thought to play a significant role in supporting eye health since they are found concentrated in the macula.

Since the lens and retina suffer oxidative damage, these antioxidants are considered protective by sequestering free radicals, which in turn help to protect and repair cells. Too many free radicals can contribute to eye diseases including AMD. (3) The National Eye Institute recommends a diet high in antioxidant-containing foods for those susceptible to age-related disease. (1)

The good news is that these two powerful antioxidants are usually found together in foods. Vegetables and eggs are considered the best sources. (4) Vegetable sources include dark-colored leafy greens, carrots, corn and orange peppers. (5) Carotenoids are best absorbed when eaten with a healthy fat source like olive oil or avocado. (5)

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another power antioxidant and fat-soluble vitamin thought to play a role in supporting eye health. Several observational studies have suggested a relationship between high vitamin E levels and lens clarity as well as reduced risk of cataract formation. (5) Cataracts are characterized by accumulation of proteins damaged by free radicals. (5) Since vitamin E is an antioxidant, it helps reduce free radicals and mitigate their damage. Reliable sources of vitamin E include nuts and oils as well as carrots, squash and peaches. Non-fat containing sources of vitamin E should be consumed with healthy fat for optimal absorption.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper retinal function. (6) Omega-3 fats exist in three forms: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The DHA and EPA forms found in cold-water fish like salmon, tuna and halibut are the most important for vision. (7) ALA is largely found in plant foods like walnuts and flax, but requires conversion to DHA in the body in order to be active. Since this conversion is largely inefficient in individuals, it is best focus on consuming sources of EPA and DHA. If you seek out supplements, it is important to preserve the quality of omega-3 fats by storing them in the refrigerator to prevent oxidation.

Body Weight

Having a high body mass index (BMI) can put you at greater risk of developing diabetes, which can have a negative impact on eye health. Elevated blood sugars are directly linked to blindness and neuropathy. (1) Thankfully diets rich in foods containing these nutrients will naturally promote a healthy body weight.

References

1. nei.nih.gov [Internet]. Bethesda: National Eye Institute; c2017 [cited 2017 May] Available from: nei.nih.gov.

2.cdc.gov [Internet]. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; c2017 [cited 2017 May] Available from: cdc.gov.

3.Fletcher AE:Free radicals, antioxidants and eye diseases: evidence from epidemiological studies on cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmic Res. 2010;44(3):191-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20829643

4.Abdel-Aal, EM., Akhtar H., Zaheer K., et. al: Dietary Sources of Lutein and Zeanthin Carotenoids and Their Role in Eye Health. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):11691-1185. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705341/

5. Rizvi S., Raza ST., Ahmed F., et. al: The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2014;14(2):e157-e165. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997530/

6.Querques G. Forte R. Souied EH.: Retina and Omega-3. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 2011;(2011):748361. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3206354/

7. Swanson D, Block R. Mousa, SA: Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition. 2012;3:1-7. http://advances.nutrition.org/content/3/1/1.full

8. who.int [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organization; c2017 [cited 2017 May] Available from: who.int.

What’s Good for Your Heart, Is Good for Your Brain

by Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D.

“The heart is the chief feature of a functioning mind.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

The heart and the head are not always on the same page. But one thing is certain, when it comes to nourishing these two essential parts of you, what’s good for one is also good for the other.

You probably already know that you can support the health of your heart with lifestyle changes. Even if you are genetically susceptible, the lifestyle choices you make can turn on or off those genes, raising or lowering your inherent risk for heart disease. In short, even family history can be rewritten depending on how you choose to eat, move and live. (64-66)

What’s the Connection?

Everything known to be unhealthy for blood vessels and the heart is also linked to poor brain health. The culprits that raise heart disease risk, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, stiff arteries, inflammation and obesity, may also impact brain function. (61,62)

In contrast, every habit you adopt to lower the risk of heart disease helps to support positive brain health. For example, a study from the University of Miami compared cardiovascular health with cognitive function in more than 1,000 people. Results showed that those who had the highest scores on measures of heart health did the best on mental tests. They scored highest on processing information, memory and the ability to organize, manage time and control impulses, a set of skills known as “executive function.” (1)

A Hearty Diet for the Mind

To protect your brain, adopt a heart-healthy diet, preferably one that resembles the Mediterranean diet rich in fatty fish, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and nuts. This diet supports healthy arteries that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to both the brain and heart, and helps clear fatty deposits from arteries to help keep blood pressure in check. (58-60,63)

  1. Think Fish
    One of the mainstays of this diet is the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA found in fatty fish, such as salmon and herring. The health benefits of consuming at least two servings a week of fatty fish has been known for decades. (17-21,38) The body cannot make these fats at optimal levels, so it holds true that as intake decreases, levels in the brain of these omega-3s also decrease. (2-15,56,57) The benefits of DHA and EPA to mood, cognition and learning are noted around the world in both men and women and throughout life, from infancy through the senior years. (22-37)
  2. Eat the Rainbow
    The heart pumps one-fifth of its blood to the brain, where billions of brain cells use 20 percent of the blood’s oxygen and fuel. Along with that oxygen comes oxygen fragments, called oxidants or free radicals. Left unchecked, the oxidative damage caused by this onslaught damages cells. The antioxidants in foods, such as vitamins C and E, protect both the arteries and the brain from damage. (39,40-42) For example, preliminary evidence suggests that vitamin E helps lower the risk for both heart disease and dementia. (43-47,56,57) Load at least half of every plate with a variety of antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables, and include vitamin E-rich nuts in the weekly diet.
  3. Supplement Responsibly
    On the days when you don’t eat perfectly, supplement. Make sure your multi-vitamin contains antioxidants, such as vitamin E. Supplement your multi-vitamin with DHA and EPA omega-3s. Rest assured that supplemental sources of these fats are just as effective at protecting your heart and brain as are the same fats found in fatty fish. (48-52)
  4. Stay Lean
    Humans are not meant to be overweight. Excess body fat is associated with most aspects of aging and health conditions. For example, being overweight in the middle years significantly increases the risk for dementia down the road. The good news – the very diet that protects your brain and heart also helps to slim your waistline! (53-55)

Live It Up!

One cannot live by diet alone. To protect your heart and head, include exercise in the daily routine. Move at a level that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat, and you’ll stimulate growth of the hippocampus, the memory and learning center in your brain. You’ll also reduce many of the risk factors for heart disease. Then, sleep well, lower stress, and of course, don’t smoke! Adopt those habits and your brain and heart will repay you a thousand-fold!

References

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What Nutrients are Important for Eye Health?

What’s good for your heart and brain is good for your eyes – especially when it comes to nutrition. The connections aren’t too surprising – your eyes rely on tiny arteries for oxygen and nutrients just like your brain does, and your heart relies on much larger arteries. Keeping all those arteries healthy can help your vision throughout life.

Registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer agrees eye health is an important aspect of overall health and provided a list of nutrients that provide a good recipe for healthy vision:

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin – Dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, collards and turnip greens), eggs, broccoli, peas and corn are super stars when it comes to providing lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important, but often forgotten, nutrients for eye health
  • Vitamin C – Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and lemons) provide a hefty amount of vitamin C
  • Vitamin E – Oils, wheat germ and peanuts provide vitamin E – free radicals don’t stand a chance against this fat soluble antioxidant
  • Omega-3s DHA and EPA – Fatty fish and algae (found in fortified foods and supplements) provide the omega-3s DHA and EPA

Try a DHA supplement like Ovega-3 with DHA and EPA or DHA-fortified foods like Francesco Rinaldi pasta sauce

 

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