Culinary Medicine for Low Vision: The Braille Institute

Topics: Aging and Costs of Aging, ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine, Diabetes, Education, Food Benefits, Presentations, Santa Barbara, Vitamins and Supplements, Wellness and Health
a woman's long lashes and eye

Culinary medicine for low vision is a real possibility: for the Braille Institute I’m doing a (very) short demo and lecture shortly, and here is some of what I learned in preparing.  Acute macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the few conditions in which dietary supplements have been shown to slow the progression of disease in excellent, long term trials. 

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) is 10 years plus now, and it shows that the right amounts of vitamins C and E, lutein/zeaxanthin, and zinc delays progression of advanced AMD in persons with intermediate AMD.

It’s more complicated than that though: the vitamin E in the formula might elevate risk for lung cancer in former smokers. So lutein + zeaxanthin should be substituted: the final recommended supplement composition based on AREDS2: Vitamin C (500 mg), Lutein (10mg), Zeaxanthin (2 mg), Zinc (80 mg) and Copper (2 mg)…maybe without the vitamin E (400IU) if you smoke.  Good luck finding this exact pill and nothing else!

Twice daily Preservision  is close but has vitamin E; so does once daily Pro-Optic.  Most of the AREDS2 study participants took a simple multivitamin, and I like the all-in-one MaxiVision. And if you do happen to be a smoker or former smoker, I would use the vitamin E free Lipotriad Visionary , also once daily.

Or, you could eat your way to better vision. The four most common causes of vision loss are cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetes. My favorite fruits for diabetics: organic frozen berries, followed by lemons and limes…whole! For an immune system treat, and something that can’t be faked because they have to be wild-gathered, try elderberries

Eating to prevent these–and in some cases, start to reverse them–is just what it looks like: bright colors.

For glaucoma prevention, just two or three servings a month of kale and collard greens cut risk in half. The yellow pigments lutein and zeaxanthin adhere to the macula in the back of the eye, protect against oxidation and absorb the damaging blue light from the sun. from our diet, absorbing blue light and protecting the retina from photo-oxidative damage. Magic.

Or maybe it’s because of the nitrate in the green leafy vegetables, converted to nitric oxide, which improves retinal blood flow to the optic nerve.  Ditto eating two oranges weekly.  and black currants!

But the elephant in the room is AMD, the leading cause of blindness in people over 65. In a nutshell, low glycemic index foods and eating patterns lower risk of AMD. So the fewer sugar and starches, and more fish, the less risk.  And the more goji berries (for 90 days), the more macular protection, and the less drusen accumulation in the macula. 

There are other worthwhile foods to fight against cataract; wet macular degeneration; even diabetic retinopathy.

In fact, an 8 year Japanese study showed that 2 pieces (253 grams) or 1.5 cups daily of fruit high in vitamin C, carotene, and fiber (e.g., papayas, cantaloupe, apricots, watermelon, mango, tangerines, berries) lowered risk of eye disease by 30 percent!