Art is Her Best Friend

Yvonne is living her dream. She is an artist, dedicated to raising awareness and funds for vision research.

Become a Community Fundraiser

Community events are a fun way for you to join the fight against blindness and fund sight saving research. Host a fundraiser in your community today!

Out-pacing vision loss

Cycle for Sight founder and co-chair, Michael Ovens, will cycle any distance or run any length to help support sight-saving research.

Meet Molly Burke, FFB Youth Ambassador

Youth Ambassador

Molly Burke is a youth ambassador for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, educating the public about living with blindness while delivering a message of hope to those living with vision impairment.

Meet Norma Bastidas, mom on a mission

Mom on a Mission

Norma is the second person in history to run 7 of the planet's most unforgiving environments on 7 continents in 1 year in support of vision research. Read her about incredible journey.

Meet Dale Turner, proof that research does work

Miracles do happen

Dale Turner is the first Canadian to receive an experimental treatment and have some sight restored by gene therapy. Dale is proof that investing in research works.

Does Health Food Store Product have Beneficial Effects in Retinitis Pigmentosa?

July 9, 2013 - Israeli scientists have recently published a paper suggesting that a specific type of green algae capsules may have some benefits for some people with retinitis pigmentosa. At this point, their study raises more questions than it answers, but it is an intriguing premise.

People with retinitis pigmentosa in the study were treated for 90 days taking four capsules containing 300 mg of 9-cis beta-carotene–rich alga Dunaliella bardawil each day. Dunaliella is a type of green microalgae often sold as a nutritional supplement in health food stores. The particular type of Dunaliella used in this study, Dunaliella bardawil, is not widely available in North America but can be purchased online.

In total, 29 people with retinitis pigmentosa participated in this study, but not all seemed to benefit. Most of the benefits were seen in a subgroup of ten patients. These patients reported some improvements in their night vision and had measurable improvements of retina function as assessed with an electroretinogram (ERG). This test measures the retina's electrical response to light. The researchers speculate that the treatment is likely most useful for people with specific genetic types of retinitis pigmentosa, although the particular types have not yet been identified.

Dunaliella is very rich in 9-cis beta-carotene - a specific form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene is part of the chemical process within the retina that allows us to process visual signals. The authors of the paper speculate that this specific form of beta-carotene may help damaged photoreceptors function in some types of retinitis pigmentosa.

Dr. Orson Moritz of the University of British Columbia also studies the ways that the retina processes light. He notes that the authors of this study are appropriately cautious about the reporting their results, warning that there in not enough evidence in place to recommend this therapy. He also notes that it is not clear that this effect is particular to people with retinitis pigmentosa. The study does not look at how the supplements might affect the ERGs of people with normal vision.

Dr. Yves Sauve at the University of Alberta studies nutritional therapies for retinal disease. He is also cautious about this research. He says that ERG results are an important tool to study retinal disease, but that he wishes that their study had also looked at whether or not the supplements made useful changes in a person’s vision (for example whether it affected visual acuity – the ability to read, recognize faces, etc). He also stresses a significant caveat for people thinking of trying this therapy.

“A recent large study of vitamins to treat age-related macular degeneration showed that taking high levels of beta-carotene can increase the lung cancer risk for smokers and ex-smokers,” says Dr. Sauve. “Other studies also support this finding. People who have a history of smoking, regardless of long it has been since they stopped, should not take beta-carotene supplements like the ones used in this study.”

This study of Dunaliella bardawil supplements was published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

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