A cataract means that the crystalline lens of the eye is becoming cloudy, which is a gradual process occurring with age. The most common symptom is blurry vision. Over four million Americans and 300,000 Canadian suffer from cataracts, which can cause blindness. Fifty percent of those between 54 and 65 have cataracts, with cataract surgery being the most common surgery performed on those over 65.
Incredibly, there is good scientific data to show that taking antioxidant vitamins can prevent and slow the formation of cataracts. The risk of cataracts increases substantially with low blood levels of vitamin-E, vitamin-C, and betacarotene.
According to Jane Heimlich in her chapter on cataracts in What Your Doctor Won't Tell You (Harper and Collins, 1990), Dr. Otto Hockwin, a leading cataract researcher in Europe, believes that age is only one of many risk factors for cataracts. Other risk factors include ultraviolet radiation, nutritional deficiencies, medications and chronic diseases like diabetes.
Dr. Gary Price Todd is a rare breed of eye specialists whom Heimlich found treated cataracts with nutrition. Dr. Todd, author of the book, Nutrition, Health And Disease (1-800-426-7581 or 704-648-9400) does a hair analysis to check for heavy metal poisoning (one study showed that cadmium concentrations are two to three time higher in cataracts lens) and trace mineral deficiencies which he has found in over 35 percent of his patients. He then uses vitamin-C 1,200mg, Vitamin-E 400 IU, zinc 20mg, betacarotene 15,000 IU, in addition to glutathione 200mg and selenium 600 micrograms by mouth for six to twelve months.
Another Californian eye specialist that Heimlich interviewed, Dr. Stuart Kemeny has successfully treated over 7,000 cataract patients, and co-authored a book with Dr. Alex Duarte called Cataract Breakthrough Dr. Kemeny uses a comprehensive nutritional programme similar to Dr. Todd, as well as eye drops containing phenoxazine carboxylic acid and glutathione.
Bilberry or vaccinium mrytillus is a shrubby perennial plant that grows in Europe and produces a blue black berry. The plant contains special flavonoids known as anthocyanosides. They are extremely powerful antioxidants with a special affinity for the eyes. British air force pilots reported improved night vision on bombing raids after consuming bilberries. Research showed that healthy subjects who took bilberry extracts had improved night vision. One study of 50 patients showed that bilberry extracts plus vitamin-E stopped progression of cataract formation in 97 percent of patients with age related cataracts. The usual dose is 40 to 80mgs of bilberry extracts containing 25 percent anthocyanosides three times a day.
Dr. Jonathan Wright also recommends iodine supplementation which can specifically improve clogged arteries in the eye due to hardening of the arteries.
Researcher Bill Sardi has a new book out dealing with glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration called How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy Naturally (Avery, 1999) This book is loaded with practical nutritional and preventative advice.
Don't expect your eye specialist to know anything about nutritional prevention of cataracts. Most have never studied nutrition nor reviewed the latest research. As one specialist told Jane Heimlich, "Cataract surgery is big business." Fortunately, prevention is cheap.
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