Go Vols! UT Lands Eye Research Grants

Grants to Bring More Than $6M in Research Funding

According to a news release dated February 8, 2012, a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has renewed several grants with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The efforts of physiology professor Gadiparthi Rao, PhD will bring in more than $6 million in research funding to the UTHSC. The grant renewals are significant not only for the amount, but also for the fact they were received in spite of the current economy.

The funding is expected to allow Dr. Rao to continue groundbreaking research into the role of lipids (fats and related molecules) and cytokines (regulatory proteins) in the body. Specifically, how they affect the vascular system and how such changes relate to retinopathies, or damage to the retina of the eye.

Dr. Rao is a Fellow of the American Heart Association, and he serves on the editorial board of Circulation Research and Arteriosclerosis and Vascular Biology, two prestigious journals of the American Heart Association.

The eye doctors and professional team at LaFollette Eye Clinic are proud of Dr. Rao and his accomplishments. We look forward to the potential advances in understanding, treating, and preventing such vascular conditions as macular degeneration and glaucoma, as well as other retinopathies that affect the eyes and vision of our patients.

Congratulations, Dr. Rao. May your efforts be fruitful.

Seven Foods to Eat Today for Better Vision and Eye Health

By now you’ve probably heard the rumor that sugary foods and drinks will soon be taxed and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes. While the rumor isn’t true (yet), it stems from a highly publicized article in the journal Nature dated February 2nd. According to a follow up article at Time.com, regulating sugary foods will be a challenge in today’s culture because we have an emotional attachment to sugar. We celebrate birthdays with cake, not salad.

Another problem is sugar’s prevalence in our lives. No one has to look very far before they find more than enough to satisfy their cravings. Just this morning a well-meaning vendor brought two dozen doughnuts for the eye doctors and staff at LaFollette Eye Clinic. I looked them over, since they were baked at a local shop whose artisans are long on talent, if not nutrition. They were pretty, but I didn’t touch one. I abstained not because I’m worried about my hips, but because I want to protect my heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and yes, my eyes.

Colorful fruits and veggies are great for the eyes!

Colorful fruits and veggies are great for the eyes!

The far-reaching damaging effects of excess sugar are no secret, but they are beyond the scope of this post. Fortunately, good nutrition is also no secret, especially as it relates to our eyes and vision. Here’s a good rule of thumb that’s easy to remember: food that’s prettiest to the eyes (i.e., most colorful) is generally better. Remember, though, that it should be natural (as it came from the ground) and not processed (as it came from the box of doughnuts).

Read on to discover seven foods to eat for better vision and eye health:

1. Leafy greens: spinach, chard, kale, and collards. These nutrient packed powerhouses are listed first for a reason. First, they contain the pigments lutein and zeaxanthin, which are naturally found in the eyes. They both improve vision and reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Second, they provide carotenoids, a provitamin A that is converted to natural vitamin A (retinol) by the body. Vitamin A is also known to reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Third, they contain vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect retinal cells from UV radiation, again reducing the risk of macular degeneration. Are you noticing a pattern here?

2. Berries: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Berries are high in antioxidants, protecting against macular degeneration and cataracts.

3. Colored fruits and vegetables: this broad category has two parts. Orange-colored fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, mangos, cantaloupe, apricots) provide beta-carotene, the most common type of carotenoid that supports retinal health and protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. Other colorful fruits and vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges) contain vitamin C, a key protective antioxidant.

4. Fish: specifically, salmon and sardines. These fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of macular degeneration and also have additional benefits for dry eyes and other ocular surface dieases. Many fish are also good sources of another potent antioxidant, vitamin D.

5. Nuts: almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and even peanut butter. These are sources of vitamin E, yet another powerful antioxidant. Wheat germ and avocados are also good sources of vitamin E.

6. Lean meat: lean beef and turkey. Here’s where you’ll get plenty of zinc, which helps your body absorb all those antioxidants you’ve been reading about.

7. Milk: contains riboflavin (a B vitamin) and natural vitamin A (retinol). Riboflavin can help prevent cataracts, and as mentioned before, vitamin A helps prevent macular degeneration.