Get A Clearer Picture

Dear Health-Conscious Reader,

He was nearly blind.

The pain in his eyes was so intense he thought he would go insane.

But he kept hiking, stumbling along over a small plateau high in the Rocky Mountains.

His sight was so far gone that he almost stumbled into two grizzly bear cubs and their enormous mother bear.

He was lucky he wasn’t attacked… and he knew he couldn’t walk much farther in the mountains and stay alive.

The prospector came to the mouth of a rocky pass, sat down and started sobbing. He was sure he was never going to see his family again.

As he sat there holding his throbbing head, he suddenly heard a voice behind him…

It was an old Indian who had been tracking that same bear. The two of them couldn’t speak with each other, but the Indian understood that the prospector’s eyes were hurting him.

The elder Indian led the stranger down to a nearby stream, and set a trap made of stones in the running water. The Indian then waded upstream and drove a few trout into his trap.

He caught one of the fish and threw it onto the stream bank. He had the prospector eat the flesh of the head, and especially the eyes and the tissue at the back of the fish’s eyes.

Within a few hours, his pain was nearly gone. Within two days, the prospector’s sight had almost returned to normal.1

How did the Indian cure the prospector so quickly? He gave him one of the very best sources of vitamin A you can find in nature.

Ancient cultures knew the value of the whole, fresh foods they ate, and what to do with them. Unfortunately, this way of looking at things with an eye on nature has been discarded and forgotten.

The prospector was a doctor of engineering and science. Yet he almost went blind and died looking for gold and silver in the Rocky Mountains in the 1930s. He was a scientist, but he had no idea what to eat, where to find it, how to eat it, or why. All because modern science ignores ancient wisdom passed on through thousands of years of trial and error.

Today, we have all of these individualized categories of study being looked at by very smart people. But we’re not as smart as we think. The people who interpret the information they’re getting don’t have the wisdom to apply it.

They keep trying to break nature down into component parts, and then give it back to you one by one. But these attempts to outsmart nature run into predictable problems.

Vitamin A was the first vitamin isolated and studied by modern science. And until a few years ago, we told people just to take vitamin A for their eyes. That turned out not to work. It solved one problem but caused others down the road. And too much vitamin A at once can be toxic to your liver.

Then we discovered a natural vitamin A precursor called beta-carotene. Pick up any multi-vitamin formula today and you’ll see beta-carotene.

But that turned out not to be a complete solution either. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, and in a carrot it does what all carotenoids do. It gives the plant its color, and helps protect the plant’s delicate and very sensitive photosystems.

Your body can use beta-carotene the same way. It can protect your own photosystem – your eyes – by turning into vitamin A. The problem is that if your body has enough vitamin A, it won’t convert beta-carotene.

Today, we are finding other carotenoids that are not only better than Vitamin A but better than beta-carotene. In fact, they’re up to 100 times more powerful.

So it’s a good thing we’re so smart now, and we don’t just recommend pure vitamin A or pure beta-carotene as the total solution. Because what you really need are these other carotenoids… right?

Not so fast. My instinct is that we’re still only catching a very thin slice of that pie. The truth is they’re going to find a whole bunch more things next year or in 10 years.

We should learn from this that you can’t break Mother nature into tiny little pieces and build it back. We have to presume that you need things as natively as possible, rather than get them in a refined or processed form. Because we’re always going to miss something for the foreseeable future.

That’s why you’re always better off eating whole fresh vegetables and wild-caught fish to take care of your eyesight. Because your eyes depend on good, balanced nutrition, just like the rest of your body does.

If you give your eyes the building blocks and maintenance materials they need most, you can reverse many of the common symptoms of vision loss. And you may also prevent the major causes of blindness – glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration, or AMD.

Telling Fish Tales

Do you know how many fish get their color? They eat plants that have carotenoids and use those plant colors as their own. Even rainbow trout do this. It could be one of the reasons eating fish is so beneficial for your eyesight.

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology published two important studies that prove other ways in which eating fish protects your vision.

Macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye problem related to age. Macular degeneration is a disruption of nerves in the retina. This disruption causes loss of sight. AMD is one the leading causes of blindness in older people.

Researchers from the National Eye Institute found that DHA, one of the omega-3 fats found in fish, supports the nerves in the retina. They looked at over 4,500 people ages 60-80 and found that people who ate two servings of fish a week were 50 percent less likely to develop AMD that those who ate no fish.

*The higher the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats, the more able the body is to use the omega 3 fats.

Another study performed by Harvard’s Schepens Eye Institute found that fish protects you from dry eye syndrome. When a person’s eyes do not make enough moisture, the dryness can damage the cornea.

The study followed over 32,000 people. Those who ate more fish had up to 66 percent less chance of developing dry eye syndrome.

Eat good quality fish like wild-caught salmon a couple times a week to keep your eyes in top condition.

My favorite fish dish is the national dish of Jamaica, Ackee with saltfish. Ackee is a fruit, and it’s a little bit tricky to prepare because it’s toxic if it’s not quite ripe.

You can get a little sick from it. They call it “Jamaican morning sickness” and it’s not fun. I experienced it myself before I really knew what I was doing trying to choose the ripe ackee.

The saltfish is a kind of cod, and I also like to eat it with callaloo (amaranth). It’s no coincidence that the local Jamaicans have been eating callaloo with fish for centuries… it’s loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, the two most powerful carotenoids for your eyes.

Your Eyes May Know Best

Fruits and vegetables are the most potent sources of eye-healthy carotenoids. Fruits and vegetables are natural multivitamins, multiminerals and multiantioxidants. In choosing them, you can use your vision to protect you vision. Choose combinations that are pleasing to the eye.

Eat a variety of different colored fruits and veggies every day. Eat as many colors as you can because the type of carotenoid determines the pigment and the health benefits.

For example, plants with zeaxanthin tend to be yellow, and those with lycopene tend to be red. The more colorful your plate is, the more nutrients you are getting.

It’s best to get at least 6 mg per day of the important eye-healthy carotenoids from a mix of fruits and vegetables.

I always recommend food as the most natural way to get your nutrients. But the most recent Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) found that 85 percent of Americans don’t eat even the USDA’s minimum recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Even if you did, that’s only the bare minimum you need, not the amount you should get for optimal eye health.

This makes a good case for complementing your food with a mixed carotenoid supplement. I recommend doubling the dose on the bottle if you are already suffering any vision problems. For best results, store them in your fridge and take them with food.

But a supplement should never replace real, whole, fresh foods. Real food comes intact with all the micronutrients, minerals and co-factors that nature designed them to have, and that make them so healthy in the first place. Natural whole foods are almost always your first best choice.

Beef liver is still your best food source of vitamin A, but other good sources include dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, apricots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD


1 Price, Weston A., “Nutrltion and Physical Degeneration,” Price Pottenger Nutrition Jan. 31, 2008;5th edition