Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat with Maureen Williams, N.D., and Alan R. Gaby, M.D.

Protect your eyes with fruits and veggies
Women who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing cataracts than women who don?t, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

A cataract is a cloudy patch on the eye lens. It is usually an age-related change and is the most common cause of blindness in the world. In the Western world, cataract surgery is the most frequent surgery in people older than 65 years old. Oxidative damage is believed to be responsible for cataract formation. Some studies have found that antioxidants, such as those found in fruits and vegetables, can prevent cataracts from forming and might slow their progression.

The current report comes from the Women?s Health Study, which involved almost 40,000 healthy women at least 45 years old. Reports of cataracts and cataract surgeries were monitored through annual health questionnaires for 10 years. The women were divided into five groups based on their overall fruit and vegetable intake, ranging from 2.6 to 10 servings per day. Cataract risk was found to be 17 percent lower in women in the group with the highest fruit and vegetable intake compared with women in the lowest. Women who ate the most fruits and vegetables also had a 14 percent lower likelihood of cataract surgery than those who ate the least, but this difference was not statistically significant.

Previous studies have found a stronger cataract protective effect from specific vegetables, such as spinach and kale, which are rich in lutein and other carotenoids. Vitamin C and E supplements have also demonstrated cataract-preventing activity in some, but not all, studies. With all this in mind, people who want to prevent cataracts should eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, and might be well advised to supplement with extra antioxidants.


Vitamin C: good for gout
Supplementing with vitamin C may help prevent gout by lowering blood levels of uric acid, reports Arthritis and Rheumatism. While a previous study showed that taking a large dose of vitamin C (8 grams per day) can lower blood levels of uric acid, this is the first study to show that a relatively modest amount (500 mg per day) has the same effect. Vitamin C appears to reduce uric acid levels by increasing its excretion in the urine.

In normal concentrations in the body, uric acid is believed to have beneficial antioxidant effects. However, when uric acid levels are elevated, it may crystallize in joints or other tissues, resulting in the painful arthritic condition known as gout. A high blood level of uric acid is also believed to be a risk factor for heart disease.

Uric acid levels can be controlled to some extent by restricting refined sugar, red meat, organ meats, chicken, turkey, mackerel, seafood, beans, peas, spinach and yeast. For people whose levels remain elevated, doctors may also prescribe drugs that either inhibit the body?s uric acid production or promote its excretion in the urine. While these drugs can help prevent gout attacks, they may also cause side effects such as kidney damage, vomiting or severe skin rashes.

In the new study, 184 volunteers were randomly assigned to receive either 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 500 mg of vitamin C plus 400 IU of vitamin E, or a placebo daily for two months. Among those taking vitamin C, the average serum uric acid concentration decreased by approximately 10 percent. In contrast, uric acid levels increased slightly in those not taking vitamin C. The uric acid?lowering effect of vitamin C was most pronounced among people whose initial uric acid level was above normal. Vitamin E had no effect on uric acid levels.


Maureen Williams, N.D., has a private practice in Quechee, Vt. and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Alan R. Gaby is a former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and past president of the American Holistic Medical Association.

Copyright ? 2005 Healthnotes Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 9/p. 108

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