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Friday, August 8, 2008

Improve Your Ocular Nutrition to Fight Eye Diseases

by Jo Hartley

There is now emerging research that suggests that a small protein called glutathione plays a significant role in protecting the eyes. Scientists have been aware of glutathione and its important ocular antioxidant properties for some time, but they did not know until recently how to raise glutathione levels.

Ocular nutrition and raising your glutathione level can be instrumental in preventing or resolving visual degeneration due to Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, and Cataracts. Low levels of glutathione are often seen in patients with these diseases. Raising glutathione with improved ocular nutrition can halt progress and often reverse these conditions.

Macular degeneration is defined as a progressive loss of vision because of a breakdown of the macula. The macula is the portion of the retina that is responsible for close vision. Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a top reason for sight loss in seniors over age 65.

Smoking and atherosclerosis are contributing factors that can make ARMD worse. ARMD is probably a result of cumulative damage of free radicals released because of exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. Other sources of oxidative stress may also play a role in its onset. The elderly often have low glutathione levels and this predisposes them to ARMD. This makes ocular nutrition very important.

Glaucoma is a serious condition that involves fluid pressure rising within the eye. Some pressure is necessary to maintain the shape of the eyeball, however too much pressure will compress and obstruct the small blood vessels of the eye. This will damage the optic nerve. Glaucoma is one of the top causes of vision loss.

Glaucoma becomes more common with aging, and is many times connected to diabetes, hypertension, and nearsightedness. Traditional treatment concentrates on relieving the pressure by drug therapy or surgery.

Glaucoma patients have been found to generally have very low glutathione levels. Increasing glutathione levels has been found to either prevent glaucoma or delay the onset.

Cataracts are a clouding that occurs in the lens of the eye. This is the leading cause of vision impairment in the elderly and cataracts lead to over one million surgeries every year in the United States.

Research has shown that the onset of cataracts could be delayed or even prevented by raising glutathione levels. An effective defense against cataracts is improving one's ocular nutrition.

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have been shown to be effective in protecting the retina against oxidative damage because these foods contain a compound called Sulphoraphane. Sulphoraphane boosts the body's defense system and enables it to fight free radicals.

Glutathione and Sulphoraphane have important advantages over regular antioxidants. Not only are they effective protection for the eyes, but they also protect every other part of the body. They also last between four to five days in cells after being consumed.

Other significant protective dietary ingredients are Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These are antioxidant carotenoids that are an important part of the macular pigment that protect the retina from degeneration.

Zeaxanthin helps protect the photo receptor cells present in the macula from damaging UV rays and also from free radical damage. Lutein is plentiful in many leafy green vegetables, such as Kale, Collards, Spinach, Swiss chard, Beet and Mustard Greens, Romaine Lettuce, and Endive. It is also present in Peas, Red Peppers, Pumpkin, Beetroots, Okra, Leeks, Celery, and Brussels sprouts.

Of course, Lutein supplements can protect your eyes. However, increasing the amount of leafy green vegetables in your diet is a much better way to fight eye diseases and macular degeneration. Not only are you helping your vision by raising your glutathione levels, you are helping your entire body!

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