By: Dr. Al Sears, MD
Ancient cultures knew the value of the whole, fresh foods they ate, and what to do with them. Like eating fish for better eyesight. Unfortunately, this way of looking at things with an eye on nature has been discarded and forgotten.
Today, we have all of these individualized categories of study being looked at by very smart people. But we’re not as smart as we think. The people who interpret the information often don’t apply wisdom.
And their attempts to outsmart nature run into predictable problems.
Vitamin A was the first vitamin isolated and studied by modern science. And until a few years ago, it was mainstream advice to only take vitamin A for your eyes.
Then we discovered a natural vitamin A precursor called beta-carotene. Pick up any multi-vitamin formula today and you’ll see beta-carotene. But that turned out not to be a complete solution either. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, and can protect your own photosystem – your eyes – by turning to vitamin A. The problem is that if your body has enough vitamin A, it won’t convert beta-carotene.
Today, we are finding other carotenoids that are not only better than Vitamin A but better than beta-carotene. In fact, they’re up to 100 times more powerful.
So it’s a good thing we’re so smart now, and we don’t just recommend pure vitamin A or pure beta-carotene as the total solution. Because what you really need are these other carotenoids… right?
Not so fast…
My instinct is that we’re still only catching a very thin slice of that pie. The truth is they’re going to find a whole bunch more things next year or in ten years.
What we should learn from this is, the first thing you should do is get the right nutrients in as close to their native form as possible, rather than get them in a refined or processed form.
You’re always better off eating whole foods like wild-caught fish to get a baseline of nutrients for your eyes. Because your eyes depend on good, balanced nutrition, just like the rest of your body does.
If you give your eyes the building blocks and maintenance materials they need most, you can reverse many of the common symptoms of vision loss. And you may also prevent the major causes of blindness – glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration, or macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye problem related to age. It’s a disruption of nerves in the retina. This disruption causes loss of sight. AMD is one the leading causes of blindness in older people.
Researchers from the National Eye Institute found that it’s not just carotenoids or vitamin A that helps fish protect your eyes. DHA, one of the omega-3 fats found in fish, supports the nerves in the retina. Their study looked at over 4,500 people ages 60-80 and found that people who ate two servings of high-DHA fish a week were 50% less likely to develop AMD that those who ate no fish.(1)
Another study performed by Harvard’s Schepens Eye Institute found that the DHA in fish protects you from dry eye syndrome. When a person’s eyes do not make enough moisture, the dryness can damage the cornea.
The study followed over 32,000 people. Those who ate more fish had up to 66% less chance of developing dry eye syndrome.
Wild cold-water fish like pollock, salmon, and sardines, as well as calamari, give you the most DHA. And if you eat those, or a good quality fish like wild-caught salmon a couple times a week, it should keep your eyes in top condition.
Our primal ancestors knew this through thousands of years of practice. Native Americans would eat the eyes out of the fish for better eyesight. Today we know that it’s not just vitamin A but that DHA collects in the vital organs of the fish.
However, in today’s world, we’ve lost that knowledge, and have gone very far from nature. We started to “grow” fish in man-made ponds, feeding them foods that are not native to their diet.
This has produced fish that are too high in omega-6, with little omega-3 and almost no DHA.
So while I recommend food as the most natural way to get your nutrients, and a supplement should never replace whole fresh foods … it’s very hard to get enough DHA from fresh fish alone.
I used to recommend cod liver oil as a supplemental source of DHA. But a much more bioavailable and concentrated source is krill oil. Krill’s DHA is in the phospholipid form instead of cod liver’s triglyceride form. So the DHA can cross cell membranes better and get deep into the tiny blood vessels of your eyes.
Try to get at least 500mg of DHA per day, and if you can, get it from a pure source of krill oil.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. SanGiovanni J, Chew E, et. al. “The relationship of dietary omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake with incident age-related macular degeneration: AREDS report no. 23.” Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(9):1274-9.