But new research shows you can cut your risk of vision loss IN HALF—without a single risky drug!
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for men and women over 60 years. Yet, mainstream treatments are often ineffective. And expensive.
Now, some doctors have begun to use a cutting-edge cancer drug to treat AMD. Yes, it’s less expensive. But it comes with serious risks.
I’ll tell you more about this dangerous treatment in a moment. But first, let’s consider why macular degeneration is such a big problem.
Bringing AMD into focus
Your retina is all-important for vision. It receives photons of colored light and codes them into electrical impulses. Then, it sends the impulses to the brain and central nervous system.
The center of your retina is called the macula. The macula contains highly specialized cells needed for sharp vision. Unfortunately, as we age, changes can occur to the macula. And these changes can lead to serious loss of vision.
The “dry” form of macular degeneration results from drusen deposits. (This word comes from the German word for “dregs,” as in dregs of wine). These deposits block the retina and cause blind spots.
The “wet” form results from the abnormal proliferation of blood vessels in your eye. These vessels leak blood and fluids that block the retina. Eventual scarring leads to serious loss of vision.
The dry form of AMD is more common. Although it may progress to the wet form, most cases do not. About 10 percent of men and women with macular degeneration develop the wet form. But this percentage suffers the most severe vision loss.
Curiously, the abnormal proliferation of blood vessels in the wet form of AMD is very similar to angiogenesis seen in cancer growth.
The devastating cost of human error
Angiogenesis explains how cancer cells grow into tumors.
Cancer actually begins as a few abnormal cells. So how do these abnormal cells grow into a tumor mass? They deviously send out a message that redirects blood vessels to the cancer cells.
Then, the rogue blood vessels carry nutrients to the hungry cancer cells. Eventually, the cancer cells multiply and grow, forming a tumor.
As I presented in my special report The one word battle plan to crushing cancer, we now know that stopping angiogenesis helps slow or even stop cancer growth.
After decades of basic research proving the role of angiogenesis in cancer, Big Pharma has finally embarked on an all-out, multi-billion dollar effort to develop “anti-angiogenic” drugs.
These drugs block cancer growth by blocking the proliferation of new blood vessels. And unlike chemotherapy, this new treatment does not poison all the cells in your body.
Avastin is a new anti-angiogenic drug approved for the treatment of cancer by the FDA.
And some ophthalmologists recently began using Avastin “off-label” for the wet form of macular degeneration, in the hopes that it might stop the abnormal blood vessel proliferation in the eyes. (Once the FDA approves a drug, treating physicians can use it for any purpose they deem viable.)
This “off-label” use of Avastin appeals to AMD patients for one reason: its cost. A single injection of Avastin costs only $50. By comparison, Lucentis—an FDA-approved drug specifically for AMD—costs $2,000 per injection.
But, here’s the catch. The manufacturer of Avastin, Genentech, does not make ophthalmic preparations of the drug. Compounding pharmacies must do it.
This process is cumbersome and potentially dangerous. The compounding pharmacies must divide a regular vial of Avastin many times to make doses small enough for treatment in the eye. Ophthalmologists inject it into the diseased eye using very fine syringes.
As I pointed out recently, preparing drugs for injections is a risky business. The extra handling and exposure greatly increases the risk of contamination.
Indeed, earlier this year, a compounding pharmacy in Georgia recalled 40 lots of vials. Turns out, several AMD patients developed bacterial endophthalmitis after receiving Avastin injections.
And that wasn’t the first time Avastin caused problems.
In 2011, 16 people in Florida and Tennessee lost their eyesight following Avastin injections. In those cases, patients brought malpractice lawsuits against doctors, clinics and hospitals.
A study published last year in the American Journal of Ophthalmology investigated the problems with Avastin.1 The researchers found that the drug itself wasn’t the problem. But rather, the compounding procedures used to prepare the tiny ophthalmic syringes.
Essentially, this is the same kind of thing we saw back in 2012 with steroid injections for neck and back pain. As you’ll recall, contaminated steroids caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of debilitating neurological illnesses.
Fortunately, you can skip the dangerous Avastin injections. And the pricey AMD drugs too. You don’t need drugs at all to treat AMD.
“New” vision cure from age-old nutrients
Two new studies show that a few key nutrients may be all you need to save your vision.
The first study, published in May in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin B12 and folate decrease the risk of macular degeneration.2 These B vitamins help maintain the peripheral nerves of the body. So it stands to reason they can benefit the highly specialized nervous tissues of the eye and retina.
Previous studies have noted statistical associations between serum homocysteine levels, vitamin B12, folate, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But this new study investigated how intake and blood levels of B12 and folate affect incidence of AMD over 10 years.
Blood levels were measured in samples drawn during 1997-1999 from a cohort of study participants 55 years and older. Dietary intake of B12 and folate were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire. And the presence of AMD was assessed by taking retinal photographs.
Higher homocysteine levels showed a linear, dose-response increased risk of AMD.
Patients with lower serum B12 had a 1.58 times higher risk of developing early AMD and a 2.56 times higher risk of later AMD.
Lower folate levels were associated with a 75 percent increased risk of early and 89 percent increased risk of later AMD.
Patients who took B12 supplements had a 47 percent reduced risk of AMD 3
A healthy dose of B12 (cyanocobalamin) is 20-40 mcgs per day, and 800-1,600 mcgs of folate per day. You can also ask your doctor about getting periodic B12 injections.
The second study, called LUTEGA, is evaluating the benefits of carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants for AMD.
One group of patients was given 10 mg of lutein, 1 mg of zeaxanthin, 100 mg of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, and 30 mg of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA per day. A second group was given double these daily doses. And a third group didn’t take any supplements.
After one year, researchers found that vision had improved among all the patients taking supplements. Improvements were the same with both the lower dose and higher dose of these supplements. However, vision deteriorated in the control group.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the carotenoids my colleagues and I discovered during the 1980s when we examined the nutrient content of foods that protect against cancer. No one had ever heard of them before then. When I was interviewed on NIH Radio about our findings, the commentator said it was “too bad” these particular carotenoids were not (then) available in supplement form. I said not to worry because they are available in every grocery store—in leafy green, and yellow-orange fruits and vegetables.
Of course, these carotenoids are available in supplement form now— both alone and in combination. But even if you do choose a supplement, I always recommend following a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fish.
In addition to helping preserve your vision, eating in this healthy way has many other benefits as well.\
1. “Avastin Doesn’t Blind People, People Blind People,” American Journal of Ophthalmology 2012; 153(2): 196-203.e1
2. Homocysteine, folate, vitamin B-12, and 10-y incidence of age-related macular degeneration Am J Clin Nutr 2013; 98(1): 129-135
3. “Long term effects of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3-LCPUFAs supplementation on optical density of macular pigment in AMD patients: the LUTEGA study.” Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2013; epub ahead of print, May 22