LAS VEGAS — "If you want to lower inflammation in the body, you don't necessarily need to take a drug to do that," Stuart Richer, OD, PhD, FAAO, told attendees here at Vision Expo and Conference.
Dr. Richer discussed the role of nutrition in inflammation and ocular health.
"Inflammation is involved in eye disease, such as age-related macular degeneration, dry eye, cataracts, etc.," Dr. Richer said. "It comes down to food choices. We have an increasingly inflammatory diet." He recommended having a more varied diet and "eating ethnically."
"Vitamin D is a potent anti-inflammatory. It's the body's major steroid," he said. He recommended increasing vitamin D intake by getting more sunlight.
Dr. Richer offered his "balanced approach to de-inflaming people," which includes decreasing smoking, improving nutrition/diet, increasing activity level, sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night and using supplements as secondary prevention for high-risk AMD patients.
He said that the new "food pyramid is now a pie." This can be accessed at http://myplate.gov/. "It's about moderation, variety, 'portionality,' personalization and activity," Dr. Richer said.
"Inflammation is an essential part of the human immune system," he said, "and balance is the key." He discussed the importance of balancing omega-3s and omega-6s.
"One of the best ways you can help your patients is to know something about essential fatty acids," he said.
Essential fats can be found in wild salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna and halibut.
"If you have a patient with AMD, blepharitis, dry eye or a memory problem, ask them if they have fish in their diet," he said. "I tell them not having fish in their diet is like buying a brand-new Cadillac and never changing the oil."
He tells his patients to eat three cans of sardines a week. Brand-name fish oil capsules are the best; generic is better than nothing; but sardines are much cheaper, he said.
"Fish oil reduces the risk of strokes, decreases blood pressure, decreases triglycerides, increases HDL, increases retinal and brain function and increases immune function," Dr. Richer said.