Monday, August 24, 2009

Eat your leafy greens, for pete's sake!

I've been having a few headaches lately - of the literal and figurative kind - so, in a step to overcoming at least the literal ones, I went to see my eye doctor last weekend. He ran all the usual tests - digital retinal photography (imaging the retina), Zeiss GDx (risk for glaucoma), QuantifEye (screens for macular degeneration), and Corneal Topography (maps the cornea). All very interesting and not at all painful...except on the wallet, of course. However, it's been three years since I had an eye exam so it really was time I stepped up and got it all done.

To cut a long story (3 hours of testing and waiting, in fact) short, I need glasses for reading. Well, I am approaching that fearful age that begins with a '4' and ends with an '0' and I work on a computer all day (as a programmer) so guess eyes are getting older and more tired. I am not vain and I don't mind having glasses, in fact I hear they can be quite attractive these days. I will simply have to avoid the 'Ugly Betty' type, I guess.

However, the really interesting part of the whole experience (aside from the proffered hope that I may yet be able to beat these headaches by fastening a simple occular device to my face) was the result of the QuantifEye test for Macular Degeneration. Apparently, a measure from 0 to 1 is taken of the macular pigment in the eye and baseline score is assessed: 0 is blind and 1 is perfect eye health, I assume. The lower your score, the less macular pigment you have and the more likely you are to develop Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). So in this case, we shuld be shooting for 0.50 or higher.

I scored 0.24 and was horrified.

The risk factors are being female, light-skinned, overweight and a smoker. I strike out on three out of four of these factors (I do not smoke, in case you were wondering...) so I guess it should come as no surprise that I score low.

Except for the fact that the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy level of macular pigment are lutein and zeaxanthin - both of which are carotenoids and therefore found in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens etc) and fruit/veg along the yellow-orange spectrum - orange peppers, carrots, corn etc. And, being vegan, these tend to form the basis of a healthy, wholefoods diet. You see the irony here?

So, in order to ward off eventual blindness in old age, the good doctor suggested I take a supplement called EyePromise Restore which contains Vit C, Vit E, Omega-3, Zinc, Mixed Tocopherols, ALA, Lutein and Zeaxanthin.

'Fine' I said, 'except that the Omega-3s are derived from fish oils and I do not eat fish oils.'

'Allergy to fish?' he asked innocently.

'Vegan', I replied, still peering myopically through those Harry Potter-esque lens-fitter machines.

'Oh, but fish oils are really good for the eyes', he continued.

'But not so great for the fish', I countered firmly.

And that was that.

So as long as my eyesight holds up - and I figure I have at least another 40 years or so - I am looking for a vegan equivalent of the EyePromise Restore. I imagine it must be out there somewhere and - having only recently opened my eyes to the reality of the world and how we treat our fellow earthlings - I do not intend to allow my vision to be clouded ever again.

So while I search for this vegan supplement, I am making one other commitment: to stop being a hypocrite and start eating a ton more of those leafy greens that we vegans are always so happy to tell others they need to nibble!

Stay vegan and eat your green leafies, friends! :)