Vitamin A and Stargardt Disease

Yes, You Can Have Stargardt Disease and Still Eat Vegetables!

If you have Stargardt, and you’re trying to educate yourself about this challenging eye problem, then you’ve probably come across the question of what type and how much vitamin A should someone with Stargardt use.

And you’re certainly confused.

I won’t promise to remove all of your confusion, since there are still too many unanswered questions. The science on this is very incomplete.

But I will address some of the more inaccurate information I have heard, and make some basic recommendations of what is needed and what is safe based on over 20 years of personal experience, and almost 40 years of experience from Grace Halloran, PhD.

The focus of this article will be on these four issues:

  1. Do people with Stargardt need any vitamin A and if so how much and in what form?
  2. What is the relationship between the ABCR gene and Stargardt and vitamin A?
  3. What do the people in Integrative Medicine who are treating Stargardt think about this issue?
  4. What advances might come from current research on this topic?

 

  1. Do people with Stargardt need any vitamin A and if so how much and in what form?

Vitamin A is the raw material that the body needs to make 11-cis retinal which is the light-sensitive pigment made in the retina that allows us to see. The retina of the eye is the most metabolically active tissue in the body, with huge needs for blood flow and resources.

There are millions of chemical reactions per second in the eye when it is exposed to light. The body does its best to conserve and recycle retinal, but there is a high turnover, and a constant need to replenish 11-cis retinal.

So yes, everyone, including people with Stargardt need vitamin A in their diet to maintain the production of 11-cis retinal. No vitamin A, no vision.

How much vitamin A and in what form?

People in Grace Halloran’s Visual Healing Program and the people in the Better Eye Health Program  take 5000 IU of vitamin A each day in the form of vitamin A palmitate. We put no restrictions on their consumption of foods containing vitamin A and beta-carotene. For 40 years, people in these programs doing a mix of therapies including microcurrent stimulation, color therapy, eye health exercises, Acu-Eye Point therapy, stress management and supplements see real improvements in their vision. Not everyone, but almost 90% of those who are doing the full program.

  1. What is the relationship between the ABCR gene and Stargardt and vitamin A?

(The genetic abnormality found in many people with Stargardt disease is on a gene that codes for a molecule called “ATP binding cassette transporter” or ABCR. The newer designation for this particular molecule is ABCA4)
Here’s the simple (and incorrect) version of the story:

A relationship has been noted between abnormalities on the ABCR gene and a person having Stargardt disease. There are abnormalities that exist on the ABCR gene that also lead to an improper handling of vitamin A I the body. Debris from the improper processing of vitamin A can be found in some (but not all) people with Stargardt.

Therefore, people with Stargardt should not take any vitamin A, and should avoid all vegetables.

But here’s where this thinking falls apart, leading to a lot of bad advice:

Not everyone with Stargardt disease has an ABCR abnormality. They have a genetic defect, but on a number of different genes.

People with Stargardt do have an ABCR abnormality do not all have a problem with processing vitamin A.

There are a significant number of people with abnormalities on the ABCR gene were not showing evidence of either an eye disease or a problem with vitamin A. Your genes are not your destiny. (Please see the post on Epigenetics.)

Finally, two people can have the same defect on the ABCR gene, but one will express eye disease that looks like Stargardt, and the other will have an eye disease that looks like macular degeneration, or retinitis pigmentosa. (Please see the article on ophthalmologist divide, genetics unite.) Unfortunately, very little in the relationship between genetic defects and the predisposition to disease is clear-cut.

For us, the outcomes we see for the most compelling evidence. 90% of people with Stargardt to do the full Better Eye Health Program see improvements in the health of their eyes that result in a slowing of the deterioration and even repair and regeneration the vision. These improvements occur while using a supplement program that includes 5000 units per day of vitamin A palmitate, and recommendations for a diet high in vegetables and low sugar fruits.

  1. What do the people in Integrative Medicine who are treating Stargardt think about this issue?

Some of the craziest advice that doctors give regarding nutrition occurs when they think about diet and nutrition from the standpoint of “Nutritionism”. “Nutritionism” is a term popularized by the author Michael Pollan. He uses the term to describe the way that doctors and scientist tend to think about nutrition in terms of the sum of many small parts rather than the total picture of everything we put in our body. For this discussion, vitamin A is an essential nutrient for all human beings. To think that you could tell people not to use it and to eliminate vegetables from their diet is on its face ridiculous advice. Yet I have heard this advice given.

  1. What advances might come from current research on this topic?

There is some good news about this subject coming out of the research labs. There are indeed people with Stargardt disease who have evidence of a buildup of oxidized carotenoids in the retina. These occur in everyone but if you have a genetic defect in processing vitamin A the buildup of these materials called lipofuscin can be greater than normal and can be harmful. Researchers are working on synthetic substances that would serve as a raw material to make 11-cis retinal but that would not lead to a buildup of lipofuscin. Some of the earlier versions that have been developed in this type of research have proven quite toxic to the liver. They are also extremely expensive to produce and unstable. Still, keep your ears open for further developments from this branch of research.

New Podcast: Role of Microcurrent Stimulation in the Better Eye Health Program

As part of our ongoing series of podcasts, we have a talk Dr. Miller gave at the Academy of Comprehensive Integrative Medicine (ACIM). In it he explores the history of the Better Eye Health Program and the role of Microcurrent Stimulation (MCS) plays in the treatment. He talks about the developer of the program, Grace Halloran, and how she had success with and without the use of MCS. The talk is comprehensive and full of good information.

We will also be adding a video version of the talk, with slides from the talk. Stay tuned for this and more podcasts and presentations in the future. There is Hope for Sight.

BETTER EYE HEALTH PODCAST

To Play: Click on Icon. Audio Player will open in new window.

To Download: In the new window, right click on the right side of audio player to download.

 

TO WATCH VIDEO VERSION:

Here is the Video version of the talk – with audio and images.

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National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Statement on Acupuncture

A number of years ago the NIH expressed their opinions about the efficacy of acupuncture and acupressure. Below is an overview of that statements and their findings. It was heartening to read that the NIH supports the basic methods that the Acu-Eye© Points are derived from. 


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons.


The Stimulation of Additional Points to Enhance the Treatment of Macular Degeneration and Other Retinal Diseases

This is a scientific study connected to the Acu-Eye© Points and the methods that support them. The points draw their origins from acupressure and acupuncture locations along the face, head and ear regions of the body.


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


Results of the Application of the Method of Transcutaneous Electrostimulation of the Visual System in Ophthalmology

If you have a problem with your optic nerve you’ll be very interested in knowing that the therapies that we use, mostly for the treatment of retinal disease in the United States have proven very effective in treating optic nerve disease. Much of this research has, and continues to come from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
 
This review article by E.B. Kompaneets was translated by us and shows that microcurrent stimulation therapy using a device developed during the Soviet era has been quite effective in all manner of optic nerve disease, including trauma. We first became aware of these Soviet devices through the orthopedic doctors. (Recall that some of the earliest work in this country on microcurrent stimulation was by the orthopedic surgeon Robert Becker, MD)
 
In our practice we have had some limited experience working with people with optic nerve disease, especially that caused by glaucoma and indeed we have seen improvements when people apply the therapies in the better eye health program. Grace Halloran PhD included some people with glaucoma in her study from 1997 which we have included in a separate post.

NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


Restoration of Vision After Optic Nerve Lesions with Non-Invasive Transorbital Alternating Current Stimulation: A Clinical Observational Study

This is from Brain Stimulation Journal published by Elsevier. It is from work done by the Polenov Russian Neurosurgical Institute in St. Petersburg Russia, as well as the Mechnikov Medical Academy Department of Neurology in St Petersburg Russia and the Institute of Medical Psychology at Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg Germany.


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


Repetitive Transorbital Alternating Current Stimulation in Optic Neuropathy

This is an article published in NeuroRehabilitation by IOS Press. it is from work done at the Otto Von Guericke University of Magdeburg, Institute of Medical Psychology and EBS Technologies.


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


Non-Invasive Transorbital Alternating Current Stimulation Improves Subjective Visual Functioning and Vision-Related Quality Of Life in Optic Neuropathy

Printed in the Brain Stimulation Journal published by Elsevier. University of Magdeburg, Institute of Medical Phychology – Magdeburg Germany. As well as EBS Technologies and the Department of Neurology, Charie Campus Mitte – Berlin Germany. 


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


Non-Invasive Alternating Current Stimulation Improves Visio in Optic Neuropathy

A research paper published in the Journal for Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience from IOS Press. Part of work done at the Institute of Medical Psychology in Magdeburg Germany. Also with EBS Technologies, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and the Carl Von Ossietzky University Institute of Psychology – Department of Experimental Psychology. 


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


Patents for Microcurrent Devices

These are various patents that are connected to microcurrent stimulation units either already developed or in the process of being developed. We provide this as a way to demonstrate how similar these units are and that in the end a fancier machine is not necessarily a better machine. 


NOTE: Click on the image of the article to open it in another window where you can read it online. Some files may not be available for download for copyright reasons. 


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