Eye Nutrition News
FDA Steps Up Attack on Unhealthy Trans Fat, and Better Eye Health Could Result
November 2013 With the holidays fast approaching, it's a good time to take a hard look at your diet and decide what to avoid in 2014 and beyond.
One of the first things that should go: trans fat.
Trans fat is an unhealthy fat that is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils, making them into solids, such as margarine and shortening ("partially hydrogenated oils"). This type of artificial trans fat is frequently used in processed foods, because it increases flavor and shelf life.
Some brands of microwave popcorn still contain significant amounts of trans fat. If the FDA bans trans fat, these and many other processed foods will not be sold in the United States unless their ingredients are changed.
But, like saturated fat, trans fat raises blood levels of LDL ("bad" cholesterol), which increases the risk of heart disease and other conditions, including eye problems. This is because trans fat interferes with the body's absorption of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to help protect against dry eyes and macular degeneration and are important in normal visual development in infants, among their other health benefits.
Common foods that contain artificial trans fat include crackers, cookies, microwave popcorn and other snack foods, fried foods, frozen foods and some baked goods.
This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that, based on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels, it has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) the primary source of trans fat in processed foods are not "generally recognized as safe" for use in food. The agency has opened a 60-day comment period to collect additional data before a final decision is made.
"While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States…further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year a critical step in the protection of Americans' health," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD.
Also, according to the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM), trans fat provides no known health benefit and, because there may be no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat, the IOM recommends that consumption of trans fat should be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
If the FDA does finalize its preliminary determination, partially hydrogenated oils would be considered "food additives" and could not be used in food unless authorized by regulation. The preliminary determination concerns only PHOs and does not affect trans fat that occurs naturally in small amounts in certain meat and dairy products, such as milk, butter and cheese. Research suggests naturally occurring trans fat is not as harmful as artificial trans fat.
So here's a painless dietary resolution for 2014: Out with margarine, in with butter (in moderation, of course)!
Genes May Hold Key to Eye Supplement Effectiveness
September 2013 Why are eye supplements effective at reducing the risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration (AMD) for some people but not others? The answer may be genetic, according to a new study.
Researchers in the UK studied the response of 310 twins with variants in eight genes to use of supplements containing the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which may be protective against AMD according to other research.
They found a number of the gene variants studied were associated with changes in the density of protective pigments in the macula after supplement use.
According to the study authors, this is the first study to show this gene-related variance in ocular response to lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation. The authors added that the findings "suggest an important link between macular pigment response and the biological processes of carotenoids transport and fatty acid metabolism."
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A full report of the study was published online in July by Experimental Eye Research and will appear in a future print issue of the journal.
New Dry Eye Supplements Introduced
August 2013 OcuSoft has introduced two new dietary supplements for people with dry eyes: Retaine OM3 and Retaine Flax.
Both contain a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome.
The omega-3 fatty acids in Retaine OM3 (800 mg EPA and 400 mg DHA per serving) are derived from fish oil, while the omega-3s in Retaine Flax come from flaxseed oil for people who cannot tolerate fish oil or prefer a vegetarian supplement.
Both supplements are packaged in convenient blister packs to help users remember to take their recommended daily dose of the softgel capsules for maximum effectiveness in relieving dry eye symptoms.
Retaine supplements are available from eye doctors or online.
Links Found Between Antioxidant / Vitamin Levels and Lower Cataract Risk
July 2013 If you aren't taking eye vitamins, you might want to start. A new study reveals that important associations exist between the level of certain antioxidants and vitamins in your bloodstream and your risk of cataracts.
Could antioxidant and vitamin supplements reduce your risk for age-related cataract?
Researchers in China analyzed the pooled results of 13 nutritional studies that included 18,999 participants. Those with higher blood levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and vitamin E had a lower risk of developing cataracts as they aged.
Vitamin A and vitamin C were inversely associated with age-related cataract in Asian populations but not in Western populations, and beta-carotene and lycopene had no significant association with risk of cataract.
The researchers did not study the role of antioxidant or vitamin supplement intake in preventing cataract and recommended that this role be investigated with additional studies.
The study was published on the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition website in July.
Diet of Many Americans Insufficient To Support Eye Health, Review Finds
July 2013 If you're over age 50, it's likely your diet doesn't contain all the nutrients necessary for optimum eye health. That's the finding of a recent review of nutritional studies performed by researchers at Tufts University and Lesley University.
The pigment in red bell peppers is the source of most of the zeaxanthin used in nutritional supplements.
The review highlighted data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which indicates that most Americans fall below the optimal intake of the following nutrients that research shows can help protect eye health as people age: vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
The researchers concluded that to limit vision loss within the aging U.S. population, it's important to increase awareness among Americans, especially those aged 45 to 65, about the importance of nutrients and foods that could help prevent age-related eye disease.
These foods were identified as good sources of nutrients important for eye health:
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes and broccoli
- Vitamin E: vegetable oils, wheat germ, nuts and legumes
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, corn, colored bell peppers
- Beta-carotene: carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach
- Zinc: oysters, beef and other meats, nuts
- Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon and other cold-water fish
Eye vitamins and other supplements also can help meet required daily intakes of these nutrients. But anyone considering a program of dietary supplements should consult their eye doctor or other health-care provider beforehand, the study authors advised.
The review was published online in June, in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging, and was supported by Bausch + Lomb.
About the Author: Gary Heiting, OD, is senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 25 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear industry. His special interests include contact lenses, nutrition and preventive vision care. Connect with Dr. Heiting via Google+.
[Page updated November 8, 2013]
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