Glaucoma affects more than 60 million people worldwide, with three million cases of glaucoma in U.S. adults alone. And with no known cure, glaucoma remains the leading cause of irreversible vision loss. However, new research points to Vitamin B3 – also known as niacin or nicotinamide – as a potential way of preventing glaucoma, having been already proven effective as a treatment in mice. The findings were published in the journal Science.
Researcher Simon W.M. John, Jackson Laboratory professor and Howard Hughes medical investigator, and colleagues tested the effects of vitamin B3 on mice that had been genetically predisposed to glaucoma development.
“We wanted to identify key age-related susceptibility factors that change with age in the eye,” says John, “and that therefore increase vulnerability to disease and in particular neuronal disease.”
The team found that the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) molecule, which plays a key role in the oxidation of cells, decreases with age. This weakens the metabolism of the brain cells, and intraocular eye pressure (IOP) is particularly dangerous in the context of a NAD-deprived body.
Elevated IOP is one of the leading risk factors for glaucoma. Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and normal eye pressure falls between 12 and 21 mm Hg. Anything above 21 is considered elevated.
When ingested, vitamin B3 eventually converts into NAD.
John and his research team added vitamin B3 to the drinking water of the mice and found that this canceled most negative molecular changes, protecting the mice from glaucoma. The team theorized that treatments with vitamin B3 improves the metabolism of aging retinal ganglion cells, keeping them healthy.
“Because these cells are still healthy, and still metabolically robust,” says Jackson Laboratory Postdoctoral Associate Pete Williams, first author of the study, “even when high intraocular pressure turns on, they better resist damaging processes.”
The research team is now planning to enter clinical trials that will test the effectiveness of vitamin B3 treatment in actual glaucoma patients.
A Diet Rich in Vitamin B3 Can Help
“It’s always best to get the nutrients we know help vision from foods,” says Elizabeth J. Johnson, PhD., a research scientist and associate professor at Tufts University in Boston. “Foods may contain many other nutrients we aren’t aware of that may help, too.”
Top 10 Vitamin B3-Rich Foods
- Turkey breast
- Chicken breast
- Green peas
- Grass-fed beef
- Sunflower seeds
“Certain foods have distinct benefits for the eyes in addition to overall health, including many of the trendy superfoods such as kale, broccoli, and sweet potatoes,” says Dr. James McDonnell, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Loyola University Health System.
Still, the best treatment for glaucoma remains early detection. And to catch glaucoma in its early stages, when it is most treatable, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s recommendation is screenings for glaucoma every four years after age 40 and every two years after age 60.
Glaucoma Treatment in Annapolis, Maryland
The Anne Arundel Eye Center (AAEC) is a regional leader in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma and cataracts. A consultation with board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Samuel Boles will help guide you through the treatment process and help you determine the best course of action.
Staffed by caring and knowledgeable professionals, AAEC’s state-of-the-art treatment center is dedicated to making the best eye care accessible to everyone.
If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Samuel Boles, Dr. Nicole Kershner Regis, Dr. Kathryn Turner, and the eye care specialists here at AAEC by calling 410-224-2010. AAEC is staffed by caring and knowledgeable professionals who will help guide you on your healing journey.