Your Eye Doctor Needs To Know This Supplement – InVite Health Podcast, Episode 529
Please see below for a complete transcript of this episode.
Your Eye Doctor Needs To Know This Supplement – InViteⓇ Health Podcast, Episode 529
Hosted by Amanda Williams, MPH
InViteⓇ Health Podcast Intro: Welcome to the InViteⓇ Health Podcast, where our degreed healthcare professionals are excited to offer you the most important health and wellness information you need to make informed choices about your health. You can learn more about the products discussed in each of these episodes and all that InViteⓇ Health has to offer at www.invitehealth.com/podcast. First time customers can use promo code PODCAST at checkout for an additional 15% off your first purchase. Let’s get started!
Amanda Williams, MPH:
[00:00:40] The COVID-19 pandemic changed our society and especially in regards to work, that commonly people are working remotely, so their meetings, their conversations, exchanging info and ideas is often virtual, and this is leading to spending a great deal of time on computer and smartphone screens. So people of all age groups are becoming aware of vision health and are increasingly seeking info on eye health. So many nutrients stand out when it comes to vision and eye health, and possibly chief among them is lutein. We’ll explain what that is later on and the foods that can supply lutein. So your screens, all those screens from your computer, your cell phone, your high-definition TV, your video games and of course, outside the sunlight, it depletes your eyes of lutein, but it also depletes the brain of lutein. So in healthy young people and also middle aged people, this leads to eye fatigue and even brain fatigue. But in our elderly, me included, this actually contributes to vision loss and even some memory loss. So in my opinion, the health benefits of lutein are strongly underestimated, and it is important for ophthalmologists and optometrists to inform their patients about lutein that could be derived from foods, but as you get older, it becomes increasingly important to supplement with lutein. So hi, my name is Jerry Hickey. I’m a licensed pharmacist specializing in nutrition, which I’ve studied for many, many decades. Welcome to my episode, Doctors and Supplements, Episode Two: Eye Doctors Need to Know About This Supplement. You can find all our InViteⓇ episodes for free wherever you listen to podcasts or go to invitehealth.com/podcast. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @invitehealth, and please subscribe and leave us a review.† [00:02:48]
[00:02:50] So let me get into this. It’s hard to say enough about lutein. Several decades ago, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that older people who ate a great deal of green leafy vegetables generally had better vision than their peers. Soon after, it was discovered that the most prominent nutrients in the greens were pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin. Now, lutein is a, an amber-orangish pigment, zeaxanthin is yellowish, in fact, you find it in corn. Corn is called zea maize. They named zeaxanthin after zea maize. So these are in the carotenoid family. We know of many, many, many hundreds of carotenoids. Many are very important to the human body, such as astaxanthin, which is the pink carotenoid you see in cooked shellfish and in flamingos or beta carotene that you find commonly in plants and also lutein and zeaxanthin, they’re very important… Lycopene, the red one in tomatoes and other fruits. They’re very important for human health.† [00:04:02]
[00:04:04] Now, an early study was from the Moran Eye Health Center, that’s at the University of Utah. They took a pretty good sized population of elderly people, and it gave them either a placebo, which is an inactive substance, or a supplement of lutein and zeaxanthin every day for a year. And they found that eye health improved, vision was better, in the people taking the, the lutein. So why… So that’s just an example of some of the evidence behind it. But there’s many, many, many hundreds, perhaps thousands of studies on lutein at this point in our health.† [00:04:41]
[00:04:42] So why the issue with lutein and electronic screens? Electronic screens like your cell phone and your computer use LED, light emitting diode, background technology. This gives greater clarity. It enhances the colors. It’s more, more vibrant a picture. And part of that is it emits blue light. Now, blue light has a very short wavelength, so millions of rays of blue light are hitting your, your eyes when you’re on your computer or cell phone. And this creates a glare. These flashes create a glare, and lutein is meant to absorb and protect the eyes from blue light. That’s one of its outstanding benefits because blue light can really damage the eyes. So a young person on computer screens all day long, they’re using up their lutein, their eyes and their brain get fatigued and simply reestablishing lutein takes care of that. In fact, some of the younger people I’ve known in college and also a lot of IT people, I’ve recommended lutein to them who were studying, who are doing intensive studies. So what are some sources of lutein? Well, egg yolks are a good source. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli and Swiss chard. Pistachio nuts have a little. As far as supplements, the major source has been marigold flowers, and there’s a great deal of research on that. These supplements absolutely work.† [00:06:20]
[00:06:22] So what does lutein do in the eye? There’s this protective moat in the eye, a barrier called your macular pigment, and one of its activities is absorbing blue light. See, in the back of the eye where vision takes place, there’s a lot of little vulnerable organs that could be damaged by, by blue light. So the macular pigment, this kind of catcher’s mitt, blocks the blue light from getting into the back of the eye. It’s largely made out of lutein and zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin and there’s a lot of the mineral zinc in there, too. And inside the same macular pigment, there’s a little structure called a fovea, which looks like a broken egg yolk. That’s really important for core vision. When you’re looking at something, you’re really only clearly seeing something about the size of a breadbox in your vision. The rest of your vision is just kind of a little bit out of focus, right? That’s the full view. So if that gets damaged, if your macular tissue gets damaged, you develop basically a dark hole in the middle of your vision. It’s a form of blindness, in fact, it’s the most common form of blindness in elderly people. The most common form of blindness in young people, which happens in areas where there’s wars and famines is xeropthalmia, where they’re they’re lacking Vitamin A, A as is in apple. But in older people, it’s due to a lack of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are not Vitamin A, but they’re relatives of Vitamin A in their structure.† [00:07:52]
[00:07:53] But lutein is also important for brain power. So when you deplete lutein in the young, they develop eye fatigue and brain fatigue, but giving them a source of lutein refreshes the brain and the eyes, but… And this is true for middle aged people too. But in us elderly, when you deplete lutein consistently, it affects our memory as well as our vision. Now, here’s some interesting research on lutein and the brain. Studies, early studies from the United States showed that lutein is the prominent pigment in the brains of babies. 60% of the pigments in the brain of babies is lutein. But then people who are octogenarians and centenarians, the amount of lutein in the brain drops dramatically. In fact, it was this very interesting study done down south, I think it was done in Alabama, where they took a large population of centenarians people, 100 years or over 100 years of age, which is amazing, couldn’t have done that 20 or 30 years ago, right? Get such a good population. I think it was 100 elderly people. And when they checked their, their brain power, the ones with greater brain power had more lutein in their brain.† [00:09:18]
[00:09:20] So a systematic review is one researchers looked through evidence of something. It could be a drug, it could be a food, it could be a disease, whatever it is, something scientifically. They do a a screening of all the studies out there. And that’s easy to do today because we have all these electronic sources such as PubMed. That’s the Library of Congress website, where they collate all research on, on, on nutrients and medicine, etc. And there’s Embase and Ovid. There’s a whole bunch of these electronic websites where researchers can now go and very easily download studies on anything, basically anything to do with health, so in this case, it’s lutein, and then they do a meta analysis so they choose the study that are looking at exactly what they want. But the studies have to be high quality. They have to be well-designed, well-reported, lacking bias. That’s called a meta analysis. That’s important because when a meta analysis is done properly, it tells you of something either works or it doesn’t work. So there’s been many scientific reviews, meta analysis where they bunch these studies together and they find that lutein really does benefit older people’s eyes and also older people’s memory. In fact, throughout your age, throughout your life, your lifespan, whether you were an infant or an adult or elderly adult, lutein is important for your brain and vision.† [00:10:57]
[00:10:59] So this is the journal Nutrients, and this happens to be a meta analysis that was published May 2021. It’s the Department of Cognitive Health Sciences. That’s the University of Toshiko. It’s in their division where they also study memory, aging and cancer. And also researchers in England at the University of East Anglia in Cambridge. And they looked at nine studies in total. They found seven studies using brain scans using MRIs, functional MRIs, magnetic resonance imaging, and two studies where they used electroencephalograms of the brain. So nine studies in all, very high quality studies. They found that 10mg of lutein a day as a supplement, natural lutein… And always take lutein with food. It’s fatty-soluble. It’s absorbed better with food. It improved brain activity, but it also, well, it improved the structure of the brain, which was very exciting. And this is in healthy older adults. So it improved the function of their brain during resting or during cognitive tasks. So when the brain was challenged with a test or doing math, et cetera. But they also found that it directly affected the volume of the gray matter of the brain. So in the gray matter, which is many, many billions of cells as well different estimates, sometimes 80 billion, 100 billion, 50 billion, but it’s a lot of cells. In a gray matter, memory takes place for the most part, and it has to be rich in lutein. And they found that when they gave these people, elderly people lutein, not only did it improve the function of the brain and support memory structure and memory activities, but gray matter volume increased. It actually supported the volume of gray matter. I mean that’s some interesting… I’ve only seen two things do that. One is lutein, and the other thing is type one collagen. Apparently, the brain has a large volume of type one collagen.† [00:13:10]
[00:13:13] So my recommendation? For young people, you can easily absorb lutein from food, and these foods are good for the heart, they’re good for the eyes, the brain. Obviously, they’re good for your, your circulatory system. They have anti-cancer effects. There’s a lot of benefits from these green leafy vegetables. But older people have more difficulty absorbing lutein from their food for some reason. So they really should supplement their diet with a good lutein supplement. There is one called Lutein 2020, and that also has zeaxanthin and other forms of zeaxanthin that are good for vision. Now other nutrients that are good for the eye? I mean, obviously the eye is complex, just like the brain. And interestingly, the supplements that have value for the eyes have value for the brain. So why should that be? For the supplements, for nutrients to get to your eyeball, they have to go through the brain first, and the brain grabs all the nutrients it needs, and whatever’s left over, it gets to the eyes. So if you’re not absorbing enough from your food, not enough is going to be there possibly for the brain, but certainly not for the eyes. So fish oils, omega-3 fatty acids, which are longer chain omega-3 fatty acids and shorter chain ones from like vegetables like flaxseeds. A little bit of omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in vegetable oils. They’re also found in evening primrose oil. You don’t want to overdo the omega-6 fatty acids because that can lead to inflammation. But omega-6 fatty acids are needed by the eyes. In fact, they found that dry eye disease and dry eye syndrome you can really help treat it with omega-3 like fish oils and omega-6 vegetable fat helps with dry eyes caused by things like contact lenses. Zinc is very important for the eyes, and it’s very important for the brain. We’ve done a number of podcast episodes on zinc for the immune system, for vision, etc. Very important element. And zinc is another nutrient that you absorb less with age. So older people really should consider taking a zinc supplement, especially since it’s so important for the immune system. Vitamin C, you could get that, of course, from fruits and vegetables. A Vitamin E, natural Vitamin E is very important for the eyes. They protect your eyes just like lutein and zeaxanthin shield the eyes, so do Vitamin C and Vitamin E and zinc. They work as anti-inflammatory antioxidant nutrients in the eyes. Beta carotene found in vegetables, very important for the eyes. Really should be natural beta carotene, synthetic beta carotene doesn’t work well. Just like Vitamin E should be natural. The synthetic Vitamin E doesn’t work very well. Beta carotene is converted to a form of Vitamin A that creates rhodopsin. So you could see clearly and you could see well at night, etc. B-vitamins are important for energy for the eye. A B2 directly works in the eyes. You know it’s called riboflavin. Magnesium and taurine are important for the eyes. Magnesium’s an amazing supplement. In fact, I did a podcast episode last week looking at magnesium for cardiologists. Taurine, on the other hand, is a sulfydryl amino acid. It’s kind of like in a class of its own. It’s very important for the brain, is very important for the, for the gallbladder and the kidneys. It’s very important for the heart’s circulation. It’s also very important for your vision. You could get taurine from fish.† [00:16:39]
[00:16:41] So thank you for listening to today’s episode. You can find all of our episodes for free wherever you listen to podcasts or go to invitehealth.com/podcast. Please subscribe and leave us a review if you can. You can also follow Insight on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @invitehealth. I want to thank you for listening to today’s episode. I hope you listen… I hope to see you again in future episodes. So this is sort of a continuing series on nutrients, key nutrients for specific doctors practices, but it’s important that you know these things. So thanks for listening and Jerry Hickey signing off.† [00:16:41]