Lutein, Zeaxanthin, And B-Vitamin Supplements Help Protect The Eyes

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Taking lutein, zeaxanthin, or B vitamins provides significant benefits to the eyes in both young and older people, according to three new studies.

Emily R. Bovier, PhD, of the State College of New York, and Billy R. Hammond, PhD, of the University of Georgia, studies how supplements increased the macular pigment and visual processing speed of subjects ranging from 18 to 32 years of age.

The macular pigment, found in the center of the eye’s retina, consists largely of lutein and zeaxanthin, both antioxidant carotenoids. Visual processing speed refers to a person’s “behavioral reaction,” such as to a baseball, before conscious perception. Often, the eye’s visual processing speed—i.e., reaction time—is faster than that of the brain.

Some of the study’s 69 participants were given 20 mg of zeaxanthin daily for four months. Others were given a combination of 26 mg zeaxanthin, 8 mg lutein, and 190 mg of the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Others received placebos during the study.

By the end of the study, people taking either of the supplements had increases in macular pigment and visual processing speed. Those increases did not occur in the placebo group.

Bovier and Hammond noted that the benefits occurred in young, healthy subjects who are “typically considered to be at peak efficiency.”

In another study, Kwado Owusu Akuffo, OD, of the Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland, and his colleagues studied 67 people with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD). They were divided into three groups that received either 20 mg lutein and 0.86 mg zeaxanthin; 10 mg meso-zeaxanthin, 2 mg zeaxanthin, and 10 mg lutein; or 17 mg meso-zeaxanthin, 2 mg zeaxanthin, and 3 mg lutein daily for three years.

All three groups benefited from the supplements, and there did not seem to be a progression to more advanced AMD. However, people in group three seemed to gain slightly better benefits from the supplement they were taking.

In a third study, Tanya Glaser, MD, of the U.S. National Eye Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, and her colleagues analyzed dietary intake of B vitamins and the risk of developing cataracts. The researchers found that high dietary intake of both vitamins B2 and B12 were associated with a lower risk of cataracts. People with the highest intake of either of those vitamins were far less likely to develop cataracts. High intake of vitamin B6 was also associated with a decreased risk of developing cataracts.

Blood Sugar Control Improves with Magnesium Supplements

Taking magnesium supplements can lead to substantial improvements in blood sugar among people diagnosed with prediabetes.

Martha Rodriguez-Moran, MD, and her colleagues at the Mexican Social Security Institute in Durango enrolled 116 men and non-pregnant women, ages 30-65 years, in the study. All of the patients had been recently diagnosed with prediabetes and also had low blood levels of magnesium.

They were given either 382 mg of magnesium chloride or placebos daily for four months.

By the end of the study, people taking magnesium averaged an 11 percent decrease in fasting glucose, compared with the placebo group. They also had a 9 percent decrease in postprandial glucose, and a 30 percent reduction in their HOMA-IR—a combined calculation of fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.

Overall, 50.8 percent of people taking magnesium had an improvement in their glucose control, compared with only 7 percent in the placebo group.

Vitamin D Found Helpful for People with Crohn’s Disease

People with Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, appear to gain some relief by taking vitamin D supplements, according to a new well-controlled study.

Tara Raftery, MD, of St. James’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, and her colleagues treated 27 Crohn’s disease patients who were in remission with either 2,000 IU of vitamin D or placebos daily for three months.

By the end of the study, people taking vitamin D maintained their intestinal permeability, while that permeability increased in the placebo group. Intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut,” appears to be involved in allowing undigested proteins to pass through the gut and trigger disease-causing reactions.

In addition, people taking vitamin D had increases in LL-37, part of a family of immune compounds called cathelicidins.

Vitamin D also led to lower blood levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, and higher quality of life.

An earlier study by Raftery found that vitamin D supplements led to less mental and physical fatigue in people with Crohn’s disease.

Taking Daily Probiotic Lozenges Reduces Oral Thrush in Seniors

Oral thrush, also known as an oral Candida yeast infection, can be controlled with a specific type of probiotic lozenge.

Mette Rose Jørgensen, DDS, of the University of Copenhagen collaborated with Swedish researchers on the study. They recruited 215 frail elderly subjects, ages 60 to 102 years, who were living in 20 nursing homes in southern Sweden.

All of the patients had been diagnosed with oral thrush. They were given either two lozenges daily, each containing two different strains of Lactobacillus reuteri, or placebos for 12 weeks.

Jørgensen and her colleagues took saliva and plaque samples from the subjects at the start of the study and at follow up. People who took the probiotic lozenges had significantly decreased levels of Candida in both their saliva and plaque by the end of the study.

L. reuteri are known to produce a hydrogen peroxide-like toxin, reuterin, which may actively hamper the growth of oral Candida through selective inhibition,” the researchers wrote.

References available upon request.