Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Oily fish can halt the progress of late-stage eye disease

But it can also give you eye disease in the first place! I shouldn't laugh but this really is an amusing set of findings. If I took the findings seriously, I would never eat fish again!

People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) should eat oily fish at least twice a week to keep their eye disease at bay, say scientists. Omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in fish like mackerel and salmon appear to slow or even halt the progress of both early and late stage disease.

The researchers base their findings on almost 3,000 people taking part in a trial of vitamins and supplements. The findings are published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD, which destroys central vision. Experts have already suggested omega-3 may cut the risk of getting AMD by a third, and now this latest work suggests these fats also benefit patients who already have the disease.

Progression to both dry and wet forms of advanced AMD disease was 25% less likely among those eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. People with advanced AMD who also consumed a low-GI diet, eating of foods that release their sugar more slowly, and who took supplemental antioxidant vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and zinc appeared to reduce their risk of disease progression by even more - by up to 50%. Substituting five slices of wholegrain bread for white bread every day out of a total intake of 250g of carbohydrate might cut out almost 8% of advanced age related macular degeneration over five years, say the authors.

Surprisingly, however, the supplements were counterproductive for those with early AMD, negating the benefits of omega-3 fats, and even appeared to increase the risk of disease progression. Those who took all the antioxidant vitamins plus zinc, and who a high daily intake of beta carotene - found in yellow and green vegetables - were 50% more likely to progress to advanced disease.

The researchers at Tufts University, Boston, believe omega-3 fatty acids offer protection against AMD by altering fat levels in the blood after a meal that can be damaging to the body. But they say it is not clear whether patients should also consider taking supplements as well as omega-3 because of their mixed findings.

They suggest that eating two to three servings of fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, shellfish, and herring every week, would achieve the recommended daily intake (650mg) of omega-3, substantially cutting the risk of both early and late stage AMD.

The UK's Food Standards Agency says people should eat at least two portions of fish a week including one of oily fish. But they caution that too much oily fish is bad because it can contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body. Most people can safely eat up to four portions a week, but girls and women who might have a baby and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should limit their intake to two portions a week.

A spokeswoman from RNIB said good nutrition was very important for both general and eye health. "These findings appear to be consistent with previous research that has shown that eating omega-3 poly-unsaturated fats as part of a balanced diet may help prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of severe sight loss in the UK. "RNIB hopes that this will further highlight why looking after your eyes should be a key motivation in maintaining a healthy lifestyle," she said.


The breastfeeding trend goes over the top

Australian mothers beg for black market breast milk, risking serious disease transmission

MOTHERS desperate to feed their babies breast milk are advertising for donated human milk in an unofficial milk black market that bypasses health authorities. The trend is part of an international return to wet-nursing, according to advocates who say the "breast is best" message is getting through. A Gold Coast milk bank has fielded more than 160 requests from New South Wales women wanting to find or donate milk. The natural baby food is proven to contain antibodies against illnesses and infection and has been linked with everything from higher intelligence to fewer allergies.

But mothers without their own supply are left to go it alone in NSW, risking passing on diseases including HIV and hepatitis through unscreened milk. Mothers Milk Bank founder Marea Ryan said mothers were forced underground because banks - including her own in Queensland and another in Western Australia - can only cater for a local supply. "The interstate mums have to have a donor as a private arrangement - another mother who is happy to give them milk," she said. "I think it is increasing as people become a lot more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding."

She added that mothers should see blood tests from donors before feeding their baby donated milk. One Sydney woman who arranged frozen breast milk over the internet said she copped abuse, despite insisting on a medical clearance. "I got lots of mothers telling me it was disgusting, asking how could I give another woman's milk to my baby," she said. "It was full on." The Sydney mother blamed her feeding troubles on a past breast reduction and mastitis, coupled with her daughter's whooping cough. "It was horrible. I'm a big believer in breast feeding," she said. "Knowing she was sick when she was born, you just want to give them the best."

Breastfeeding Australia national spokeswoman Carey Wood said World Health Organisation guidelines recommended "cross-feeding" ahead of formula. "We know the best thing for babies is their mothers' own milk," she said. Ms Wood said breast milk was produced by mothers specifically for the age of their baby. "Milk for an 18-month-old or two-year-old, that's not exactly what a newborn needs," she said.

The association does not condone private arrangements and asked a Senate Inquiry for a national network of breast milk banks in 2007. In the US, breast milk has sold online for as much as $1.90 for 20ml.


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