Round Red Relics

January 27th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

lutein capsulesI do eat my kale and every day I take a lutein capsule. These are both iffy insurance and in memory of my mother.

While raised as a Christian, I don’t view this as any form of physical communion. Yet, the little, red treasure is a daily reminder of my late mom.

She and a long-term friend (a UU minister in his 90s whom I’ve been buddies with for over two decades) got age-related macular degeneration (AMD or just MD). From its start, they hated it…worse than any chronic or acute condition they had. Broken bones, heart trouble, on and on were nothing compared to not being able to read, to drive, to see.

When the macula, the inside back layer of the retina, hardens, it’s game over. The center of the eye sees less, then nothing. To a woman used to the independence of driving and to the constant stimulation of reading, it was the worst of disasters. She got three or more daily newspapers, watched news and educational programs, and read several books a week.

Similarly, my minister chum has remained a theologian and scholar into his tenth decade.Yes, he’s distressed at needing someone to guide him around the street. Even that’s nothing compared to not being able to pick up a book and read it on his own. He does what he can with computer screen readers and has some part-time secretarial help reading and corresponding. It is not the same.

Both Wanda and Farley fit Dylan Thomas’ admonition to rage against the dying of the light. That seminal verse was written to note his father’s pending blindness, although many readers assumed it was about death. Neither of the MD suffers I knew was about to go gentle into that good night, as the poet put it.

My MD preventatives include both the daily capsule and the right foods. Wanda rued her ignorance about such measures when she was young enough for them to work…or maybe not. She urged my sister and me to do as she belatedly had. It was kale and capsules.

There was no day when she did not prepare kale or have it as a leftover. It is at the top of MD-preventative pyramid. I have it several times a week as well.

Our FDA is not terrifically helpful here. The research on the major chemical that may slow or prevent MD is not advanced nor a high priority nor well funded. It would seem that the attitude is that old people often go blind and that’s that.

Health food folk, including supplement makers and vendors, have to stop short of saying lutein does anything. The bottle of the brand I take now does not go beyond DIETARY SUPPLEMENT.

There is a Lutein Information Bureau that nudges up against promises though. I assume it represents a few makers of the supplement, although its website doesn’t reveal that. “Lutein is an important natural antioxidant that may help your eyes stay healthy…” is about as far as it dares go. On the other hand, it does cite serious research that supports eye-health associations.

The cautious attitude of the scientific and bureaucratic communities may best be seen in a Tufts University mention:

The Lutein Information Bureau offers abstracts of studies that all highlight its benefits. But they leave out the numerous studies that have not shown that higher intakes of lutein actually protect the eye. (They also claim lutein benefits the skin and protects against breast cancer.) The rationale behind lutein and AMD makes sense. But more clinical research is needed to show that lutein does, in fact, reduce the risk of AMD or other eye diseases. 

Beyond my mother’s exhortations, I did snoop around research myself. It looks like there is a good chance that lutein either from capsules or food (think dark greens)  is good for macular health. Moreover, with careful online shopping, I find 20mg capsules for only a few cents a day. It seems like cheap insurance to me.

To the emotional aspect, it’s a good thing to connect daily with your ancestors. This is not exactly a ritual for me, but it does remind me daily. I swallow a red capsule and think fleetingly of my mother, of her wishes for my well-being,  of her hopes that her children fare better and avoid obvious traps, and also her fury at blindness.

By the bye, I have found, fine-tuned and created recipes for kale — soups, salads, and just cooked up. I am likely to put a couple here or on Friendly with Food. I haven’t been putting much there and it’s time to return.  Then again, I’ve always liked my greens, cooked and raw. Some don’t and there’s always those capsules.

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One Response

  1. Uncle says:

    Kale with sunflower seeds and honey Dijon mustard dressing makes a particularly kick-ass salad. It’s guaranteed to wake up the company. If they didn’t think they had taste buds before, they will after that.

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