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Bilberry and Pine Bark Combo an Eye Health Breakthrough?

A new study from researchers at the University of Chieti-Pescara in Italy found that a combination of bilberry and french maritime pine bark may reduce the risk of glaucoma. The news has been toted as a breakthrough for the 2 million Americans suffering from the disease.

Glaucoma is a blanket term for a group of diseases that gradually lead to blindness. There are few early symptoms so many people afflicted with glaucoma don't realize they have it. In fact, some experts estimate that half of all people with glaucoma aren't aware that they have it.

One of the key risk factor for glaucoma is a pressure buildup in the eye, known as intra-ocular pressure (IOP). This happens when a buildup of nitrogen and oxygen occur in the eye. A simple test using an instrument called a tonometer can be used to measure IOP.

There is no known cure for glaucoma although with proper nutrition and early detection the risk factors for the disease can be lessened. That's one reason why this latest study is so exciting to so many people.

In the study, researchers recruited 38 participants suffering from IOP. The participants were split into two groups and given either a bilberry and pine bark supplement or a placebo twice a day.

Each participant was tested for IOP at two, three and six months using a Goldmann applanation tonometer. After three months, all but one of the participants taking the bilberry and pine bark supplements saw a reduction in IOP. Only one participant in the placebo group saw a reduction.

After looking at the participants eyes using Doppler imaging the researchers noted better blood flow in the supplement group. They hypothesize that the increase in blood flow may be responsible for the reduction in IOP.

While more research needs to be done, these results may signal a breakthrough in eye health and nutrition.

Molecular Vision 2008; 14:1288-1292
"Effects of Mirtogenol on ocular blood flow and intraocular hypertension in asymptomatic subjects"
Authors: Robert Steigerwalt Jr, Belcaro Gianni, Morazzoni Paolo, Ezio Bombardelli,2 Carolina Burki, Frank Schönlau
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