On Tuesday, I showed you why an inherited eye disease really isn't about bad genes. Today, I'm going to give you more evidence that retinitis pigmentosa isn't a genetic problem. And this evidence starts with cats ... Australian cats.
Back in 1975, an epidemic swept across Australia that caused cats to go blind. At first, veterinarians were stumped. They couldn't figure out why cats would go blind en masse. Then they realized the illness hitting these cats was very similar to retinitis pigmentosa. They found that their retinas were degenerating.
At that point, the vets had to throw the genetic cause of retinal degeneration out the window. This was clearly an epidemic caused by a pathogen (e.g., bacteria, virus, etc.) or something else. That something else turned out to be a nutritional deficiency.
As the vets researched the cause, they discovered that a pet food manufacturer had made a major error in their packaging. They were packing dog food into cat food bags. That doesn´t seem like a major problem. After all, don't cats and dogs have similar nutritional needs? The answer is no.
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Cats need a lot more taurine in their diet than dogs do. This amino acid is vital for digesting protein. Cats are largely carnivores, while dogs are more omnivorous. Without enough taurine, the cats weren't able to digest proteins correctly. The researchers never determined if the cats' blindness was due directly to the lack of taurine in their food or if it was due to a protein deficiency. Regardless, once they corrected the taurine deficiency, they resolved the epidemic.
While people are omnivores like dogs, we require adequate levels of taurine like cats. We need it for protein digestion. But our eyes need it for good health as well. So taking an eye formula like Advanced Vision Formula, which has 600 mg of taurine in it can go a long way toward preventing blindness, as well as treating it.
However, if you have retinitis pigmentosa, taking a taurine supplement might not be enough. That's because there are certain bacteria that can get into your gut that prevent the bioavailability of taurine. In other words, if you have these "bad" bacteria, you can pass them on to other family members (thus making the disease seem to be inherited). And you can take extra taurine and not see any benefit.
So if you have retinitis pigmentosa, this is one time when taking an antibiotic might just save your eyesight. The antibiotic Neomycin seems to kill off these specific bacteria that block taurine absorption. If you have to take this (or any) antibiotic, make sure you follow it with a good probiotic regimen to replace the good bacteria in your gut. Once you've taken a full course of the antibiotic, try taking the taurine again and see if it helps your eyesight.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND
Bradford RW, Allen HW: Taurine in Health and Disease. Volume 2, No. 6, USA, Raum and Zeit, 1991; 17-23.
Hayes KC, et al: Science, 1975; 188: 949.