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Vitamin D rejuvenates aging eyes in laboratory study

Vitamin D rejuvenates aging eyes in laboratory study

Friday, January 20, 2012. An article published online on January 2, 2012 in the journal Neurobiology of Aging reports an eye-rejuvenating benefit for a short course of vitamin D supplementation in aged mice.

Professor Glen Jeffery and his associates at the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London supplemented old mice with vitamin D3 for six weeks while an untreated group served as controls. In addition to improved vision, the team found a reduction in number and changes in the configuration of retinal macrophages—immune cells that can sometimes cause excessive inflammatory damage—in animals that received the vitamin, as well as a decrease in retinal amyloid beta accumulation, which is a marker of aging. In humans, inflammation and amyloid beta accumulation are associated with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.

"In the back of the eyes of mammals, like mice and humans, is a layer of tissue called the retina," explained Dr Jeffery. "Cells in the retina detect light as it comes into the eyes and then send messages to the brain, which is how we see. This is a demanding job, and the retina actually requires proportionally more energy than any other tissue in the body, so it has to have a good supply of blood. However, with aging the high energy demand produces debris and there is progressive inflammation even in normal animals. In humans this can result in a decline of up to 30% in the numbers of light receptive cells in the eye by the time we are 70 and so lead to poorer vision."

"When we gave older mice the vitamin D we found that deposits of amyloid beta were reduced in their eyes and the mice showed an associated improvement of vision," he continued. "People might have heard of amyloid beta as being linked to Alzheimer's disease and new evidence suggests that vitamin D could have a role in reducing its build up in the brain. So, when we saw this effect in the eyes as well, we immediately wondered where else these deposits might be being reduced."

Further experimentation revealed a decrease in amyloid beta build-up in the animals' blood vessels, including the aorta, which is the major vessel that carries blood from the heart. "Finding that amyloid deposits were reduced in the blood vessels of mice that had been given vitamin D supplements suggests that vitamin D could be useful in helping to prevent a range of age-related health problems, from deteriorating vision to heart disease," Dr Jeffery noted.

"Many people are living to an unprecedented old age in the developed world," commented Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council BBSRC who funded the study. "All too often though, a long life does not mean a healthy one and the lives of many older people are blighted by ill health as parts of their bodies start to malfunction."

"If we are to have any hope of ensuring that more people can enjoy a healthy, productive retirement then we must learn more about the changes that take place as animals age," he added. "This research shows how close study of one part of the body can lead scientists to discover new knowledge that is more widely applicable. By studying the fundamental biology of one organ scientists can begin to draw links between a number of diseases in the hope of developing preventive strategies."

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Grapes may protect against macular degeneration

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An article published online on December 8, 2011 in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine shows a protective effect for grapes and lutein against the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a mouse model of the disease.

In their introduction to the article, Silvia Finnemann, PhD of Fordham University's Department of Biological Sciences and her associates explain that oxidative damage and pro-oxidant lysosomal lipofuscin accumulate in the aging human eye, which causes a decline in function of the retinal pigment epithelium: the support cells for the retina's photoreceptors. The resulting dysfunction and destruction of these cells, in turn, contributes to the development of age-related macular degeneration.

For their study, Dr Finnemann's team administered diets that provided natural antioxidants, grapes or marigold extract containing the macular pigments lutein/zeaxanthin to mice bred to have increased blood vessel formation (which occurs in macular degeneration). While lutein and zeaxanthin proved to be protective to the eye, grapes showed the greatest benefit, with both regimens resulting in reduced lipofuscin accumulation, less age-related rod and cone photoreceptor dysfunction, greater protection against blindness, and other positive outcomes. The antioxidant properties of compounds that occur in grapes are believed to be the protective mechanism observed in the current research.

"The protective effect of the grapes in this study was remarkable, offering a benefit for vision at old age even if grapes were consumed only at young age," Dr Finnemann stated. "A lifelong diet enriched in natural antioxidants, such as those in grapes, appears to be directly beneficial for retinal pigment epithelium, and retinal health and function."

Life Extension Blog
What's your pain in the neck? By Michael A. Smith, MD

Life Extension Blog

Neck pain is almost as common as back pain and also almost as hard to treat. This is why an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Now some people may tell you that there's really nothing you can do about it, but that's just not true. Although some causes of neck pain may not be under your control, there are still many things you can do to minimize your risk. Let's start by looking at how to better position your neck during sleep and then go over our favorite supplements for naturally relieving pain. The Harvard Medical Newsletter says that sleeping on your side or on your back are the best positions for your neck. If you sleep on your back, choose a rounded pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, with a flatter pillow cushioning your head.

Here are some other tips for supporting your neck while sleeping:

  1. Try using a feather pillow, which easily conforms to the shape of the neck. Feather pillows will collapse over time, however, so they should be replaced every year or so. A possible alternative is a memory foam pillow, which is a bit more expensive but usually lasts longer.
  2. Cervical pillows are specifically designed to support your neck, and most of these are now made with memory foam as well. If neck pain is disrupting your sleep, this can be a worthy investment.
  3. Avoid using too high or too stiff a pillow, as these can flex your neck and result in morning pain and stiffness.
  4. If you sleep on your side, keep your spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head.
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Life Extension Update What's Hot
Higher vitamin D levels associated with reduced risk of macular degeneration among women Resveratrol could halt age-related macular degeneration
Greater omega-3 fatty acid intake associated with protection against advanced age-related macular degeneration More positive evidence for lutein and zeaxanthin in macular degeneration
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