When nutrients can overcome an inherited cause of blindness

Volume 6    |    Issue 48

One of the most common causes of blindness is the eye disease macular degeneration. However, degeneration of the macula isn’t the only form of eye degeneration that can cause you to lose your sight.

Degeneration of the retina is another threat that most people don’t hear much about. But it’s not just one disease. It’s actually a group of diseases known as retinitis pigmentosa. If you remember from your high school biology class, the retina lines the back inside wall of the eye. It uses photoreceptor cells called rods and cones to capture images from the visual field. Retinitis pigmentosa attacks these cells, causing them to deteriorate. And you experience a gradual decline in vision. A few of the diseases in this group are Usher syndrome, Leber’s congenital amaurosis, rod-cone disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and Refsum disease.

If you haven’t heard of these diseases, you’re not alone. Medical experts believe they’re largely inherited, not lifestyle related. So if you’ve got good genes, you don’t have to worry about them. And researchers don’t really pay much attention to them. They think they can’t do much to stop it. However, I’m not so convinced.

Yes, there probably is an inherited element to the problem. But there’s a good reason why I don’t think genes fully explain the illness. That’s because a common vitamin can actually slow the progression of the diseases.If a vitamin can slow them down, then genes don’t fully explain the illnesses that cause the retina to deteriorate. This is important because it says that you can change the outcome – or at least the speed at which you reach the outcome – through your lifestyle choices. And these lifestyle choices can impact your family for generations. This is what science calls epigenetics.

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The study of epigenetics is complicated, but it basically says that while we can’t alter our gene code, we can alter the way our genes express themselves. When our body becomes deficient in certain nutrients, it affects this gene expression. What’s more, we can pass this expression on to our kids, their kids, and even to the fourth generation. So our lifestyle choices begin to take on a genetic aspect.

So what’s the deficiency causing retinitis pigmentosa? Well, it’s probably not as simple as one single nutrient. But research suggests that one of them could be vitamin A. In fact, one study found that taking 15,000 IU of vitamin A daily can delay the loss of vision in retinitis pigmentosa. While it’s not a cure, it can delay the onset of blindness and improve quality of life.

The researchers said that taking more than 15,000 IU won’t give additional benefit. They’re concerned about vitamin A toxicity. While the medical profession insists vitamin A is toxic in doses over 25,000 IU, there are times when taking doses larger can have tremendous benefits. But because they believe it’s toxic at higher doses, the researchers didn’t study it beyond the 25,000 IU level. And the difference between the 15,000 level and the 25,000 level didn’t produce any significant increase in benefit. But that’s not all this study discovered.

This study also found that taking too much vitamin E (more than normal dietary amounts) can be detrimental to people who have these illnesses. So you might want to avoid vitamin E supplements if you have any of these eye diseases until there’s more research on its safety.

While there aren’t a lot of studies proving this, I believe many of the nutrients that protect the macula will also protect the retina. These include vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin. So taking a formula, such as Advanced Vision Formula, is a good idea. This formula already has 3,750 IU of vitamin A in it. This is enough for most vision issues. But people with retinitis pigmentosa will need to take another 10,000+ IU. Plus, there’s another nutrient in this formula that we know can help with retinal degeneration. There’s an interesting story behind the discovery of this treatment, which I’ll tell you about on Saturday.

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About Steve Kroening, ND

For over 25 years, Editor-In-Chief Steve Kroening has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Frank Shallenberger, Janet Zand, Nan Kathryn Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.

Steve researches breakthrough cures and treatments you won't hear about from mainstream medicine or even other "alternative" writers. He writes in a friendly, easy-to-read style that always gives you the power to guide your own health choices and do more research on your own.