Macular degeneration—separating fact from folklore

Macular degeneration—separating fact from folklore

Macular degeneration (MD) is usually (but not always) a disease of aging. And since conventional medicine has little to offer in the way of treatment, it seems that just about everyone will go blind if he lives long enough. Current mainstream information on macular degeneration weaves fact and folklore together with a large dose of nutritional junk science. When I picked up a recent article on this subject, I expected more of the same-vague references to “fat in your diet,” “fat in snacks,” and “high-fat foods,” as if all fat were the same, and I thought, “Here we go again, more junk science.”

And then I read this: “We found that not all fat is bad, and that some types of fats are, in fact, good for you.”

The mainstream finally figures it out: Not all fat is created equal

According to the article, a study by Johanna Seddon, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard School of Medicine, shows that “people who ate more processed foods of any type on a daily basis-foods high in vegetable, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats-were at higher risk for the eye disease.

Those foods that were highest in a type of fat called linoleic acid -found primarily in snack foods like potato chips-seemed to put people at even higher risk.”

The enemy has, at last, been identified: vegetable fats.

“Saturated fats from animal meat did not seem to increase the risk of macular degeneration,” Dr. Seddon said.

YES! After 30 years, we are getting their attention.

The bottom line according to Dr. Seddon: “Eat fish, not fat. Eat fish two or more times a week.” Since the retina (the back of the inner surface of the eye chamber) contains large amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), it is believed to be essential to good vision. Fish contains large amounts of DHA, so the assumption is that eating fish will contribute to improved vision.

In another recent study, investigators reported that the greatest protection was found in those who consumed fish once a week. However, no correlation was found between fish consumption and the prevention of early stages of macular degeneration. If there is a DHA deficiency that causes it, which is the assumption, you would expect that proper intake of this fatty acid before the onset of the disease would prevent it from happening. You know how it goes: Adequate vitamin C = no scurvy, adequate vitamin B3 = no pellagra, etc.

The trouble with studies like these is that there are too many variables to take them seriously. It’s not a personal prejudice of mine. Fish is animal protein and animal fat; I’m all for it. If you are phobic about “red meat,” then, by all means, eat fish.

What Dr. Seddon should have said was: “Eat fatty fish and fatty meat-pork, beef, lamb, chicken-at least once a day.”

When researchers at Harvard say that, we can begin to hope that mainstream medicine has really turned the corner and is headed back to a rational, scientifically based approach to nutrition, and away from commercially based pseudoscience.

And forget what you’ve heard about green leafy veggies!

The same article also included advice from Thomas Aaberg Sr., M.D., director of the Emory Eye Center in Atlanta. “People need to be eating green leafy vegetables like spinach,” he said. Spinach is OK if you put bacon grease on it. Otherwise, it’s not all that great as a nutrient–especially after it has been boiled and the nutrients poured down the drain.

Spinach is not the answer. You need animal protein and animal FAT, including dairy products and eggs-the more the better. Giving people nutritional advice to eat spinach without knowing the science is a disservice to those who are seeking answers. Despite the Popeye fantasies of the ’30s and the media hype of today, spinach is not a magical muscle builder or a cure for macular degeneration.

Actions to take:

(1) Read The Cholesterol Myths, by Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D. You will be amazed at how wrong the “science” of nutrition is.

(2) If you have a family history of macular degeneration, get checked early for the disease, especially if you have other known risk factors, such as smoking.

(3) Base your diet primarily on animal protein and fat.

(4) Take a daily dose of the following: 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 milligrams of betacarotene, 80 milligrams of zinc, and 2 milligrams of copper. A study published in the October issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology showed that treatment with zinc and antioxidants can significantly reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. RH


“Fat-laden Snacks Increase Risk for Common Form of Blindness,” WebMD Medical News, 8/14/01

Archives of Ophthalmology 2001;119: 1,417-1,436