Vitamin D to care for your eyes

vitamind_sourcesDid you know that Vitamin D protects your eyes from eye conditions like macular degeneration and blindness? Vitamin D has been well known for preventing bone deformities, but recently it has been revealed to be effective in eye care too.

Two years ago a study appeared in the Archives of Ophthalmology that showed that people who ate more foods with vitamin D, or took vitamin D supplements in lieu of eating foods high in vitamin D, were less likely to have age-related macular degeneration, the foremost cause of blindness in older adults.

Since then, the power of vitamin D to impact the health of people who do not receive enough of the vitamin through normal sun exposure or diet, has been steadily revealed in study after study. Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

But when it comes to your eyes, there had already been an exploration of the impact of vitamin D on eyesight decades ago, that was and still is, largely ignored by the medical community.

Arthur Alexander Knapp, MD began reporting on research with animals and humans in the 1930s. In 1946, he published a paper, The Eye as A Guide To Latent Nutritional Deficiencies, in which he detailed his observations and treatment of navy personnel in the South Pacific.

One of Knapp’s discoveries was that a severe form of myopia (nearsightedness) responded to treatment with vitamin D and calcium. In over 50% of his patients, adding vitamin D and calcium stopped or greatly retarded the progression of myopia and more than 30% had improvements in their vision. By using before and after plaster casts, Knapp actually proved that vitamin D and calcium supplementation actually changed the shape of the eye. (Note: Knapp often prescribed as many as 50,000 IU of D daily, not something one should do without medical supervision.)

In experiments with animals, where Knapp and a colleague induced vitamin D and calcium deficiency, they discovered that the animals developed eye problems within 6 weeks and full blown cataracts after six months.

Weston A. Price, DDS, was also ahead of his time in his recognition of the critical role of vitamin D in human nutrition. Price studied isolated cultures during the 1940s and found that those who ate traditional diets had much stronger, cavity free teeth, broader smiles, fuller jaws and sunnier dispositions.

Their diets had 10 times the amount of vitamin A and vitamin D than found in the diets of the standard American diet at that time. That’s because they seemed to instinctively seek out foods with these fat soluble vitamins — foods that many people don’t eat today, like intestine, skin, oily fish, organ meats and insects.

Medicare to Cut Screening Tests

According to the Vitamin D Council, periodic testing is critical to maintaining optimal vitamin D blood levels. However, your access to those blood tests may soon be sharply curtailed, despite continuing discoveries about the vital nature of this vitamin and the many age-related conditions it can prevent. Medicare guidelines may soon restrict screening for low serum vitamin D levels and other insurance carriers may be following suit (if they have not already done so.)

Testing is suggested only if the doctor suspects chronic kidney disease, osteomalacia, hypercalcemia, or rickets. While the Vitamin D Council suggests you write to Medicare (forms and addresses are available on their site.) to protest this move. At the same time, they have also made at home vitamin D testing kits available for $65  which involve blood samples from a finger or heel prick.

Many people are supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, but according to the Vitamin D Council that may not be enough.The Vitamin D Council suggests taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day for three months, then get a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Optimal blood levels are between 50-80 ng/mL year-round.

Blood testing is the only way to know for sure whether your regimen is appropriate. It’s hard to know exactly how much vitamin D your body is making from sun exposure. It depends on factors like what latitude you live at, your skin color and how much skin you expose for how long. And your needs may change according to the seasons, your age, your health and your weight. Adjust your dosage up or down according to your results.

The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Don't let a vitamin D deficiency put you at risk for vision loss as you age. Get your vitamin D levels checked so you can be sure you are taking enough supplemental vitamin D to keep your blood levels in a safe range.

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