lutein

  1. Apples and pears can lower stroke risk

    Supposedly cutting-edge procedures like the brain stent I just mentioned won't lower your risk of stroke -- and they might even kill you.

    But you don't have to turn to risky surgery or unproven meds to keep a stroke at bay: A new study finds all you might really need is more of the foods you already enjoy.

    And no, it's not candy and cake (nice try, though).

    Dutch researchers tracked the eating habits of nearly 21,000 people with an average age of 41 and no signs of heart disease at the start of the 10-year study.

    During that time, 233 people suffered a stroke -- with the volunteers who ate the most white fruits and vegetables (think apples, pears, and bananas) 52 percent less likely to be among them.

    Even those who ate just a little got a benefit: The researchers wrote in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association that just a few slices of apple a day, for example, can lower the risk by 9 percent.

    Along with apples, pears and bananas, the researchers say white fruits and vegetables include cauliflower, chicory, and cucumbers -- but not potatoes. Those are actually a starch, and -- let's face it -- you shouldn't be eating them anyway (especially if they come from any place that has a big golden M on the sign).

    The catch here is that the study was based on the least reliable form of science: the food frequency questionnaire. In other words, let's file this one under "interesting" but not something you need to start planting an apple orchard for.

    The study also didn't show why these fruits and vegetables might be able to slash the risk of stroke -- but the smart money is on the terrific antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin, the pigment that helps turn apples red (and gives even green pears those red patches you so often see).

    Along with other bioflavonoids -- including the lutein and zeaxanthin also found in apple and pear skins -- quercetin may help protect your heart and even lower your risk of cancer.

    If you're not eating an apple, pear or banana every day, you can get these and other great nutrients from a high-quality bioflavonoid supplement.

  2. The real secret to saving your eyes

    At some point in the next month, the feds are expected to approve a new drug to help treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors.

    And if the $2,000-a-pop price tag doesn't cause your eyes to pop right out of your head, maybe this will: The drug, called Eylea, is injected directly into the eyeball.

    YOUCH!

    Sure, it's done with some anesthesia -- but there's the potential for serious pain once it wears off, along with the possibility of increased pressure in the eyeball, and hemorrhaging in the white.

    Might be a great look for Halloween... but probably not ideal for the other 364 days of the year.

    The cost and side effects are right in line with the other major treatment for macular degeneration, a drug called Lucentis. The only difference is that Lucentis is injected monthly, while Eylea can be done every other month.

    But what if you didn't have to deal with the needles, side effects, cost or -- more importantly -- the macular degeneration itself?

    It might be a lot easier than you think -- and it starts with eating a little more seafood.

    Dutch researchers examined data on 2,167 volunteers aged 55 or older and found that those with certain gene variations linked to macular degeneration were able to lower their risk by boosting their intake of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

    One variation, CFH, can boost the risk of macular degeneration by 11 times -- but the researchers found that some seniors were able to beat those odds by getting higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA as well as zinc, beta-carotene, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

    Another gene variation, called LOC387715S, is known to increase the risk of macular degeneration by 15 times -- but researchers say seniors who had higher levels of zinc, EPA and DHA were more likely to avoid the disease than those who had lower levels.

    The best sources of EPA and DHA, of course, are the fatty fish that should be a steady part of your diet anyway. But zinc's a little tougher to come by: Oysters are loaded with it, but a steady shellfish diet can get pricey.

    Add a supplement instead -- especially if you already know you may be predisposed to macular degeneration.

    P.S. For more on the connection between fish oil and eye health, read "Fish is 'see' food." And for a promising but yet-unproven treatment for macular degeneration, read "Flowers for your eyes."

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