Saffron & Resveratrol Could Help Fight AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration)

June 21, 2011 by  
Filed under featured, Health

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye. It causes problems with your central vision, but does not lead to total loss of sight and is not painful so you notice it when you’re reading, looking at photos or watching television. AMD may make this central vision distorted or blurry and, over a period of time, it may cause a blank patch in the centre of your vision.

At the moment, the exact cause for AMD is not known, but some things are thought to increase your chances of developing it. It gradually develops with age, starting at around 50 and is most often seen in people over the age of 65. More women have AMD than men, and there may also be a genetic link. Smoking also greatly increases the risk as does lifelong exposure to high levels of sunlight for outdoor workers.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but usually the first problems people notice are with their ability to see detail. You may have problems reading small print, even if you wear your usual reading glasses, or you may find that there is a slight smudge in your sight or that your vision has a small blurred area in the centre. Straight lines may look distorted or wavy or as if there’s a little bump in them. You may also find you become sensitive to bright light or that you see shapes and lights that aren’t actually there. Sometimes people may only notice these changes in one eye.

Regular eye tests will establish whether you have AMD and prevention is something you can pay attention to. Minimising your risk factors through not smoking or exposing your eyes to bright sunlight without sunglasses are things you can control, though sadly aging and family history are not.

A new supplement that offers help in this area is Saffron 2020 which has been designed to tackle the eye disease in its early stages helping to reduce the risk of vision loss and improve a sufferer’s quality of life from the onset of the disease. The nutritional supplement is made up of a unique formulation of saffron, the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin A and resveratrol. It also contains vitamin C, E and B2, zinc and copper, all of which work together to help protect DNA, proteins and lipids from damage and help maintain healthy eyes and normal vision. You may only know saffron as a cooking ingredient but the yellow powder that is derived from from the stigma of the saffron crocus has been used across Europe and the Middle East to promote health.

More information on the supplement at and for help with AMD the Macular Disease Society has local groups which meet throughout the country and also offer a telephone counselling service.

Exercise? Pop a pill

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Fitness & Sport, Natural Medicine

Athletics and drugs have sadly often gone hand in hand, and now a new research breakthrough which is intended to help people who cannot exercise much or at all, due to incapacity or illness, could be high on the list for cheating athletes.

Steroids boost muscle power so are misused by those needing strength in their events, but so far a drug that can build the endurance needed to run a marathon or take part in the Tour de France has not been available. Now, it could be. We have two types of muscle that move our body: bulky, fast-twitch muscles for power and speed, and slender slow-twitch muscles for endurance. Fast-twitch muscles burn sugar that must be stored in the muscle itself, while slow-twitch muscle burns fat.

A new study on mice at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California suggests that there is a drug that can trick the body into “believing” it has exercised. A drug that has been developed for the treatment of metabolic disease, when taken in combination with exercise, gives mice the ability to run farther than exercise alone can and a separate chemical gave them greater endurance, even without the exercise.

Earlier studies had found that a red wine ingredient called resveratrol could build endurance, but only at enormous doses and by uncertain means. The natural route’s success, however limited, as usual set up a search for a pharmaceutical substitute. The chemicals tested in the new study are thought to work by specifically tapping into the molecular mechanisms that normally re-programme our muscle genes in response to exercise.

Of course it might not work on people, but the research team had previously found they could genetically engineer mice to produce more of the fat-burning slow-twitch muscle fibres, giving them nearly twice the running endurance of untrained adults. The key was boosting the activity of a gene in muscle called PPARd, known to control other genes important to muscle metabolism.

The researchers gave mice an experimental drug, known only as GW1516, that increases PPARd activity and is currently being tested for the treatment of metabolic disease in humans. However, the drug had no effect on the muscles and so they tried giving it to mice who were undergoing exercise training. I have a cute but entirely unfounded vision of a Stuart Little character with mini barbells in satin running shorts – or is that just me? The same dose and duration of GW1516 that had previously failed to alter performance, when paired with four weeks of exercise training, increased the animals’ running time by 68% and their running distance by 70%. The muscles of those mice also showed a unique “endurance gene signature,” including patterns of gene activity not seen with either the drug or exercise alone, according to the investigators. They then decided to try one more thing: a chemical known as AICAR that was known to act on a protein in the body called AMPK. The results are impressive, even in sedentary mice, four weeks of AICAR treatment alone induced metabolic genes and enhanced running endurance by 44%.

When developed and trialled fully, this has therapeutic potential in treating certain muscle diseases such as wasting and frailty as well as cases of obesity where exercise is known to be beneficial but not physically possible. We also appear to be training mice for the 2012 Olympics, or at least increasing their fitness to levels which should help them run from the fastest cat in your home.

Could diabetics and others benefit from grape skins?

A recently published paper in the science journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism has reported on new research carried out by scientists at the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England, which has found that resveratrol, a compound present naturally in grape skin, can protect against the cellular damage to blood vessels caused by high production of glucose in diabetes.

Patients with diabetes have elevated levels of glucose that circulate in the blood and which cause both micro- and macro- vascular complications by damaging the mitochondria. These are the tiny power plants within cells responsible for generating energy and when they are damaged they can leak electrons and make highly damaging ‘free radicals’. Serious complications can arise when this happens, including kidney disease, heart disease and retinopathy – which if left untreated can lead to blindness.

Resveratrol stops the damage by helping cells make protective enzymes to prevent the leakage of electrons and the production of the toxic ‘free radicals’. By including grapes in your diet, and other sources such as seeds, peanuts and red wine you could be helping prevent vascular damage caused by hyperglycemia in the future.

Other Health Benefits

You know how you take grapes to patients in hospitals? Well if you take them red grapes the resveratrol in the skin has also been shown to help with other health issues. For instance, if you have the flu, then resveratrol has been shown to prevent the continued reproduction of the flu virus if taken within six hours of the first infection. It has been shown to be anticarcinogenic, and there is also growing evidence that it can also protect the heart. It does this in several ways: inhibits platelet aggregation, the proliferation of smooth-muscle cells, and the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol. So don’t ask ‘Beulah, peel me a grape’, as Mae West famously said, but insist she keeps the skins on!