Nutrient in Meat and Spinach Can Help Prevent Cataracts, Migraines, and Peripheral Neuropathy

Steve Kroening, ND
September 18, 2019

 

Mark noticed something interesting at church the other day. He’s nearsighted and has trouble reading the words on the screen at the front of the room. But this day was different. The words were not as blurry. He asked me why.

After talking to him for a few minutes, I discovered that he had changed his diet and was now eating a diet rich in spinach and meat. And there’s a nutrient in these foods that can help the eyes focus better. But it can also prevent cataracts, reduce migraines, and even relieve peripheral neuropathy.

While the foods Mark was eating don’t contain enough of this nutrient to fully protect against cataracts, I wasn’t surprised it was helping his eyes focus better. We’ve known for some time that these foods help the eyes. But newer research is showing how taking larger doses can help fight cataracts.

Cataracts, as you may know, are common for people over the age of 50. But they don’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. There are a number of antioxidants that can protect your eyes. However, out of all antioxidants, this one found in spinach and beef could be the most beneficial.

But, as I mentioned, you won’t get enough of this antioxidant from your food. Your eyes need a lot of it to stay clear and focused.

While this particular antioxidant is in meat and spinach, your body also manufactures it. When you’re young, your body makes more of it than it does as you age. That’s unfortunate, because as you age, you actually need a lot more of it than you did when you were young.

Why You Need More

All antioxidants by their very nature are anti-aging nutrients. That’s because their primary function is to neutralize harmful free radicals, which lead to a number of degenerative diseases. What’s interesting is that some nutrients are more effective in particular parts of the body. For instance, some antioxidants are more protective for the eyes than others.

There’s a reason this particular nutrient is so effective for the eyes. A few weeks ago, I told you that antioxidants are usually either water soluble or oil soluble. And when they fight free radicals, they do so on the surface of cells. However, this particular antioxidant is different. It is both oil-soluble and water-soluble, which allows it to work in every cell in your body. This means it can protect the cells in your eyes from both the inside and outside. It can get into the watery tissues of our eyes and destroy the free radicals that contribute to cataracts.

But that’s not all. Preliminary research has found that it also binds to metals in the eye that may be an additional factor in the formation of cataracts, especially in diabetics.

The antioxidant I'm talking about that appears to be a key nutrient in protecting us from cataracts is alpha lipoic acid (ALA). You may have heard that ALA is useful in treating diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. It's also been used to repair liver damage. These make sense, as the cells in these organs use ALA to repair. Now we have studies showing that ALA can save our sight. It's an important preventive for all types of cataracts: those from aging, from exposure to chemicals, and from the progression of diabetes.

However, because every cell in your body can use it, you need more to get to the small regions of the eye.

Most dosages you’ll read on the Internet will suggest 25-50 mg per day. But even if you combine this with the amount you get in your food, it still may not be enough to flood your eyes with this helpful nutrients. So you may need more. Before ALA can function as an antioxidant, you may need 50-400 mg per day (600 mg has been shown to be very safe). One study found that 600 mg/day for four months significantly reduced oxidative stress in healthy people. You can get 100 mg of ALA from ProThera (888-488-2488). Source Naturals, available in many health food stores, has ALA in various strengths, from 50 mg to 300 mg. Be sure to include a multivitamin high in other antioxidants as well, as the ALA will boost their life of these other nutrients.

High Doses Help More Than the Eyes

Even though 400 mg per day might seem high, some studies suggest that taking up to four times that much for short periods of time can be helpful for fighting diabetes. And it’s completely safe. A placebo-controlled study of 72 adult diabetics found that oral ALA improved insulin sensitivity up to 25%. The researchers used daily doses from 600-1,800 mg for four weeks. Similar effects have been seen in mice.

What’s really amazing about ALA is that it has the ability to reduce pain and debility in diabetic neuropathy. Many well-conducted studies have shown such a reduction is significant. Most of these studies gave patients large doses (600 mg) of ALA intravenously. Most people can safely take 300-400 mg daily indefinitely.

Taking ALA With Other Nutrients Significantly Reduces Migraines

As I said earlier, it’s important to take ALA with other nutrients. That’s because ALA enhances the effectiveness of other nutrients. One area of study that is quite interesting is the use of ALA to treat migraines.

If you’re one of the 56 million Americans who suffers from migraine headaches, you know just how disabling they can be. Migraine sufferers really struggle to find help when common painkillers fail. The pain is incapacitating.

Doctors really don’t have much they can do. Many will simply give an injection of powerful narcotics. Then they’ll send the patient home and tell them to sleep it off. Sometimes sleep is the best thing for a migraine. But there are times when even that doesn’t work. Migraine drugs have a miserable failure rate. Fortunately, ALA can help.

ALA and CoQ10 are both metabolic enhancers. That means that they improve your metabolism. But taking them together may help you with your migraines.

One study followed 1,550 pediatric and adolescent patients aged 3-22. These subjects had frequent migraine-type headaches. Interestingly, 74.6% of the subjects had low levels of plasma CoQ10 levels. Of these, about one-third were actually below the reference range of 0.21-1.77mcg/mL.

The researchers then gave these patients supplemental CoQ10 (liquid gel preparation) at a dose of 1-3 mg per kilogram of body weight. That’s about 100-200 mg for an average-sized adult. Of these, the researchers measured 250 of them at follow-up about three months later.

Supplementation raised their plasma levels to an average of 1.2 mcg/mL. And the number of migraines likewise significantly fell from 19.2 days per month to 12.5 days per month. Headache disability improved from 47.4 to 22.8 (as assessed by a standardized scale), and 46.3% of patients experienced a 50% reduction in headache frequency.

These numbers indicate that migraines could be a marker for physiological CoQ10 deficiency. So anyone with migraines should take CoQ10 daily.

But they also need to take ALA. Researchers confirmed this when they studied 44 patients in a randomized controlled trial. They gave the patients 600 mg of ALA or a placebo for three months. The proportion of subjects who experienced a 50% improvement in headaches was not significantly different between the groups. However, the researchers looked within the groups for more specific results. And they found something very interesting. Specifically, migraine frequency, the number of days with headaches, and the severity of headaches were all significantly reduced in the ALA group.

But there’s something here that’s even more exciting. Both of these studies were done separately. And both nutrients worked without the other one. Since ALA helps boost the effectiveness of other nutrients, the two will work even better when you take them together.

You can safely take these nutrients in the dosages found helpful in the studies. And you can find them at just about any health food store, pharmacy, and online. You may find the ALA is exactly what you need to prevent cataracts, fight diabetes, and reduce the frequency and duration of migraines. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to see clearer as well.

Sources:

Hagen, T.M., PhD. "Alpha lipoic acid," Linus Pauling Institute, 2002-2003.

Head, K., ND. "Natural therapies for ocular disorders – Part Two: Cataracts and glaucoma," Alternative Medicine Review, 2001, vol. 6, no. 2.

Headache, 2007; 47(1): 73-80

Jacques, P.F., et al. "Long-term nutrient intake and early age-related nuclear lens opacities," Arch Ophthalmol, July 2001;119(7).

The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 2007; 47(1): 52-57.

Kottler, U.B., et al. "Is a cataract avoidable? Current status with special emphasis on the pathophysiology of oxidative lens damage, nutritional factors, and the ARED study," Ophthalmologe, March 2003;100(3).

Maitra, I., et al. "Alpha-lipoic acid prevents buthionine sulfoximine-induced cataract formation in newborn rats," Rad Biol Med, 1995 April;18(4).

Neurology, 1998;50:466-70

Oc, P., et al. "Thioctic (lipoic) acid: a therapeutic metal chelating antioxidant?" Biochemical Pharmacology, 1995, 50.

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