Eat your fruits and veggies, but take eye vitamins, too

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“Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees” 

– Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi” 

What could these lyrics possibly have to do with eyes, macular degeneration, and nutrition? Could eating apples or carrots possibly prevent blindness and possibly so much more? 

The answer is yes. 

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. Advanced age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world. Eleven million Americans currently have it and this number is expected to double to 22 million by 2050. 

Yes, 22 million with impaired vision. 

Treatments do exist, but once the eye is damaged, the vision is usually permanently impaired. My hope is to raise your awareness about something that so few of us in the medical community ever talk about, and that is prevention. 

Did you know that the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better your chances of preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and possibly macular degeneration? 

Certain nutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been found to decrease the chances of the worst kind of macular degeneration by 25%. The more you eat, the better your chances for health. 

A German study showed that people with a high daily intake of fruits and vegetables have higher antioxidant levels in their blood, lower levels of biomarkers of oxidative stress (aging) and had better cognitive performance than healthy subjects of any age consuming lower amounts of fruits and vegetables. 

Fifty years ago, the folk singer Joni Mitchell lamented sacrificing our environment by the ravages of DDT and its effects on the at-the-time endangered, bald eagle. 

Today, we have spot-free apples but more tragically, our apples of today, compared to 50 years ago, contain much more sugar, are larger in size but there is an alarming drop in essential minerals and other nutrients. This rate of depletion appears to have been the greatest between 1978 and 1991.

 ln just 13 years, vegetables lost 57% of their zinc content which is vital for metabolic reactions and our vision. An orange from the 1950s was full of vitamin A, which is vital for good vision. To attain the same amounts today you would have to consume 21 of them. Onions and potatoes no longer contain any trace of it. The calcium contained in today’s broccoli is only 25% of what it was in the 50s. 

Why has this happened to our fruits and vegetables? Soils are depleted of vital nutrients by intensive agriculture and a wide range of fertilizers increase yields and size of our produce.

Much produce is picked too soon from the fields and not allowed to ripen. A ripe fruit has the most nutritional value and unless you are eating “local,”your produce is harvested days to weeks before it is ripe. 

Farmers are not rewarded for producing “nutritious” apples, but only sweet, blemish-free apples. lf we could choose our produce based on the amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, we could spend less time in the produce section choosing our veggies based on looks and how they feel. 

Next time you are in the produce aisle, just watch how people shop for produce. 

lt is hilarious. 

Some touch, some smell, some squeeze but everyone picks the best-looking fruits.Wouldn’t it be great if we could compare blueberries based on the amount of vitamins or other phytonutrients instead of just what they “look like”? 

You can’t judge a fruit by its “cover.” 

Until that day comes when every apple is labeled with its nutritional facts, we must supplement our diets with nutritional supplements. Healthy, natural, food-based vitamins are nothing more than concentrated “food” that God designed for us to eat in the first place. 

lf you have macular degeneration or a genetic predisposition to it, (mom or dad has it) then why not hedge your bets and possibly preserve the vision you have now as an insurance policy for future vision. 

“Focused-nutrition” are supplements, such as the AREDS II vitamin group, 

that have been shown to slow down macular degeneration. Over the next 30 years, 11 million Americans will develop macular degeneration who don’t have it now. lf you read this article, and do something to prevent your own blindness, then I did my job. 

Here’s to the year 2020, and a prayer that each of us is still 20/20 well into our 80s and beyond. 

Tim Schneider MD

Schneider Eye and Wellness Center

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