If you love coffee like I do, you wouldn’t think of starting your day without a cup or two of your favorite coffee. Like me, it helps your brain wake up, helps you think more clearly, and helps you get on your way for the day. But did you know that drinking coffee regularly has another really important benefit – especially as you get older?
Prevent Retinal Damage with Your Morning Coffee
As amazing as that sounds, a recent study out of Cornell University proved it to be true. Researchers found that drinking a daily cup of coffee can help prevent vision damage, especially the type that comes with getting older – retinal damage.
And if you gave up coffee drinking because of the caffeine you can still get the vision protection. That’s because the active ingredient in coffee that protects the retina is CLA – chlorogenic acid.
Researchers found that chlorogenic acid is a powerful antioxidant found previously to prevent retinal damage in lab animals. The retina is the part of your eye responsible for refracting light coming into your eye. It’s what allows you to make visual sense of the world through delineating images.
To do this important job, the retina needs a lot of oxygen. This can make it more subject to oxidative stress from free radicals. In lab animals tested, nitric oxide was administered to create oxidative stress and retinal damage. Yet, the animals who received a pre-treatment with chlorogenic acid did not develop retinal damage.
As a result, exciting new avenues of research are being undertaken in the study of CLA for treatment of retinal damage. If CLA is found to cross the blood retinal barrier – meaning CLA can be carried through the blood to the retina – then doctors can simply prescribe a certain type of coffee to drink to prevent/treat retinal damage. But for now, you can get the same benefit just by drinking your same cup of coffee every morning.
But protecting the retina isn’t the only health benefit recently attributed to coffee. It has also been found to cut the risk of these other age-related conditions as well:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Type 2 diabetes – lowers blood sugar levels.
- Alzheimer disease – fights development of beta amyloid plaques.
- Prostate cancer –
- Age-related cognitive decline
The chlorogenic acid in coffee seems to confer anti-aging benefits through boosting the immune system via its antioxidant capacity. You can also get chlorogenic acid in a tablet form from green coffee bean extract.
What Else Can You Do To Protect Your Retina?
Protecting your retina essentially involves fighting oxidative stress damage from free radicals. This can increase as you get older if you don’t take steps to block, or neutralize, it. Besides your daily coffee, here are some other things you can do to protect your retina:
1. Nutrition. A high antioxidant diet helps minimize oxidative stress throughout your entire body. Antioxidants include astaxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C, E, zinc, gingko biloba, turmeric, selenium. Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, krill or flax seed oil, have also been found to be beneficial to the retina. They help prevent blood vessel damage/loss which leads to the formation of new, deformed blood vessels. These deformed blood vessels lead to the retina pulling away from the back of the eye causing blindness. Also, limit/omit refined sugars. These can cause a lot of inflammation in your body from too much acid.
2. Protection. Bright sunlight can damage not only the retina but the lens and result in cataracts. Wear protective sunglasses with a high UV ray blocking capacity. The best glasses block 100% of UV rays and HEV (high energy visible) rays. Glasses that wrap further around to cover the entire eye prevents light getting in from the side. Also, prevent trauma to the eye. Retinal damage/ detachments occur most often after trauma to the eye.
3. Regular eye check-ups. Seeing an ophthalmologist once a year – especially over age 50, and if you’re diabetic – is important. A retinal exam is done where special drops are placed in your eye. The eye doctor is then able to see the back of the eye, where the retina is, to look for tears, floaters, etc. Dark spots that bounce around in your vision are called “floaters”. They occur when tiny bits of vitreous humor break away. They are usually harmless but could be a warning sign of retinal detachment – especially if you have a “shower” of them occur at once.
4. Regular medical care. As you get older, it’s important to also get regular medical check-ups and lab tests to look for diabetes. It’s one of the major vision robbing conditions and people over age 50 are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In addition, cardiovascular disease can also affect your eyes and vision. If your heart’s blood pumping ability is impaired, your eyes won’t receive the nutrients and oxygen they need.
5. Aerobic Exercise. Your eyes also benefit from aerobic exercise as much as the rest of you does. Aerobic exercise builds your oxygen intake capacity and that oxygen travels via your blood stream to your eyes.
Protecting your vision at any age is important but especially so as you get older. It should be one of the primary concerns in fighting aging. Keeping a healthy vision will allow you to stay independent and maintain your activity level as you get older. Having a simple cup – or 2 – of coffee every morning is a good way to start.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
A Cup of Coffee A Day May Keep Retinal Damage Away http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140502213047.htm
Omega-3 Eyes For Retina Protection, http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Omega-3-eyed-for-retina-protection
Top Foods To Protect Your Vision http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2013/August/top-foods-to-help-protect-your-vision
The Role of in the Retina and Retinal Pigment Epithelium, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S8755966886800242