If you are concerned about losing your eyesight to diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other age-related degenerative eye disorders, coconut oil may provide a solution for you.
Vivian was diagnosed with diabetes 20 years ago at the age of 58. "To be quite honest," says Vivian, "when I was first diagnosed I don’t really remember what I was told. I think I was so shocked to realize I was falling prey to diabetes, a disease I thought I would never get. I was always a healthy person&mdashnever sick." Today Vivian manages her condition with four injections a day: two of insulin and two of Byetta—a drug to help control blood sugar.
Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy—a degenerative eye disease brought on by her diabetes. "I was not prepared for vision problems," says Vivian. "The doctor who first treated me for diabetes didn’t mention that I needed to take care of my eyes. He didn’t suggest that I should go and see an ophthalmologist every year for a checkup. I don’t think too many people know that you can lose your vision to diabetes. I’ve heard of people who have had legs and other limbs amputated, but I didn’t know it could affect your eyes."
Vivian suffered with cataracts for several years but didn’t realize her diabetes was affecting her eyes until after she had cataract surgery. Her doctor informed her that she had diabetic retinopathy and had already lost some vision as a result of it. Diabetes initiates degenerative changes in the blood vessels in the retina—the photosensitive cells at the back of the eye that relay visual messages to the brain. When blood sugar is poorly controlled these blood vessels leak fluid and blood into the retina. The retina swells with fluid and vision blurs and can be lost entirely. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in individuals age 20-65. Vision loss is usually permanent. Vivian was advised to seek treatment as soon as possible.
"I found an ophthalmologist who specialized in laser treatments. He gave me the biggest hope. He told me that although I had a problem with scar tissue, he would try to fix it. I had an operation, called a vitrectomy, and this helped to remove some of the scar tissue. I’m still considered legally blind, but I can see—I just don’t see clearly. I can see an entire person when they’re standing in front of me but I don’t see them clearly, and my peripheral vision is not so good. When someone comes up from behind me and stands to my side, I don’t always notice them."
Vivian admits she still likes to indulge in ice cream and fruit at times even though these foods raise her blood sugar levels. My vision changes along with my blood sugar levels," she says "For example, I take 46 unites of insulin in the morning and 20 at night. So, suppose at lunch time I decide to eat a lot of fruit, which I’m not supposed to because of the high amounts of sugar, then my sugar jumps up and my vision will change [become blurry]. By the time night comes around, my sugar drops and I can see better."
The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he or she is to develop retinopathy. Almost everyone with type 1 diabetes and most of those with type 2 diabetes will eventually develop retinopathy. Nearly half of those diagnosed with diabetes already have some stage of retinopathy.
Retinopathy can develop without any noticeable symptoms. The retina can be damaged before the person notices any change in vision. Blurred vision may occur when the retina swells from leaking fluid. At first, a few specks of blood, or spots may also interfere with vision. Sometimes, without treatment, the spots clear, and the person will see better. However, bleeding can reoccur and cause severely blurred vision and scaring. If it advances, risk of permanent vision loss is high. Despite taking medications to control her blood sugar, every time Vivian eats too much carbohydrate-rich food her vision becomes blurry, indicating leakage and swelling in her retina. Blurred vision is often one of the first signs of diabetes.
Diabetes is a major cause of disability leading to blindness, lower-limb amputation, kidney disease, and nerve damage. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology people with diabetes are 25 times more likely to become blind than people without the disease. Currently 29 million people (9.3 percent of the population) in the United States have diabetes. Over 8 million are living with diabetes but are unaware of it. More than 26 percent of all adults age 65 and older have diabetes: that’s one out of every four older adults! But it’s not just an old-age disease; over 200,000 people under the age of 20 have been diagnosed with the disease as well. There are many more people, 86 million age 20 years and over, who are pre-diabetic. All of these people are at risk of developing visual problems at some point in their lives.
Diabetes not only causes retinopathy but also increases the risk of developing other visual problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. People with diabetes develop cataracts at an earlier age, and are nearly twice as likely to get glaucoma compared to non-diabetics.
Diabetes occurs as a result of the body’s inability to properly regulate blood sugar. When we eat a meal, much of the food is converted into glucose, or blood sugar, and sent into the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels rise too high, the body can be thrown into a panic, metabolically speaking. The pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream to shuttle glucose into the cells and lower blood sugar levels. However, if blood sugar is not normalized in a reasonable amount of time, cells and tissues become damaged. This is what happens in people with diabetes.
Ninety percent of all diabetics are type 2 or insulin resistant. Their cells have become unresponsive or resistant to the action of insulin so blood sugar has a harder time being transported into the cells. As a consequence, blood sugar levels remain elevated for extended periods of time. You don’t have to be diabetic to develop problems. Even pre-diabetics are at risk. Any elevation of blood sugar is harmful to the eyes.
When insulin resistance is severe, it is classified or diagnosed as diabetes. Diabetes is diagnosed when fasting blood sugar—the blood glucose levels after an 8-12 hour fast—reaches 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or more. In a healthy individual fasting blood sugar levels are generally no greater than 90 mg/dL. The higher the blood sugar level is, the greater the damage being done. Chronic fasting blood sugar levels over 90 mg/dl increase your risk of degenerative eye disease.
If you have problems with cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, or any other age-related eye disorder then you are most likely insulin resistant to some degree. For example, the higher a person’s blood sugar is, the greater the risk of cataract. Researchers at Yale University studied the effect of three diets—high-carb, high-protein, and high-fat—on the incidence of cataract in diabetic rats. Development of cataracts was highest in the rats fed a high-carb diet; a lesser incidence was observed in the high-protein fed animals, while no cataracts developed in rats fed a high-fat diet.1 Although all the rats in this study were diabetic, their blood sugar levels determined the severity of cataracts they developed. The higher the blood sugar levels, the greater the incidence of cataract. When blood sugar was controlled by a high-fat, low-carb diet, no cataracts developed. This effect is not seen just in lab animals, in humans better blood sugar control has shown similar results.2
Whether you are diabetic or not, eating a high-carb diet will elevate blood sugar and keep it elevated for extended periods of time and increase the risk of damaged to the eyes. Scientists working for the US Agricultural Research Service tracked 471 middle-aged women during a 14 year period. The researchers found that women in the study whose average carbohydrate intake was between 200 and 268 grams per day, which is typical for most normal weight women, were 2.5 times more likely to get cataracts than the women whose intake was between 101 and 185 grams per day. Although the consumption of 101 to 185 grams per day is lower than average, it is not considered low-carb. Low-carb diets generally include no more than 100 grams of carbohydrate a day and very low-carb diets restrict it to less than 25 grams daily. So even a modest reduction in carbohydrate intake, and corresponding drop in blood sugar levels, can significantly reduce risk of cataracts.3
Fasting blood sugar measures the glucose levels at the time of testing. Another way of measuring blood sugar that gives an average over the previous three months is the A1C test. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that type 2 diabetics who lower their A1C level by just 1 percent can reduce their risk of cataracts by 19 percent. 6 Even a small decrease in average blood sugar can make a big impact on eye health.
A study out of Tufts University in Boston showed that eating foods with a glycemic index above average is associated with a 49 percent increase in advanced macular degeneration.4 The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly certain foods raise blood sugar levels. Those that raise blood sugar levels the most, like bread and sugar, are the most detrimental. Dr. Allen Taylor, the lead researcher in this study, said that the results found that at least 1 in 5 cases of advanced age-related macular degeneration (the only eye disease evaluated in the study) would likely have been prevented entirely by consuming a lower-carb diet.
You may be at risk of developing an age-related eye disease, even if you are not diabetic and have no known visual difficulties; we are all at risk. Degenerative eye diseases don’t appear overnight. They take years, even decades to develop. Glucose metabolism becomes abnormal one to two decades before type 2 diabetes is diagnosed.5 In the meantime, the damage that can be done could be extensive before any symptoms become noticeable. Since no pain or sudden changes in vision are noticed, the gradual loss of sight is not easily recognized until substantial damaged has occurred. Waiting until symptoms appear may be too late.
The cataract started bothering me with a blurred film on my left eye. So after reading [The Coconut Oil Miracle], we purchased a coconut from Wal-Mart and my husband drilled a hole to drain and I strained the water through sterile gauze and used an eye dropper to instill about three drops in my left eye then covered with a hot wash cloth for ten minutes. I took off the washcloth and nothing had changed. However, the next morning the eye was clear as a bell and has been ever since!!!
The way to prevent or stop degenerative eye disease is to get your blood sugar levels under control. The standard medical approach to accomplish this is through medications. However, many people mistakenly believe that as long as they take their drugs, they are protected. This false sense of security permits them into eat excessive amounts of carbohydrate, which causes high blood sugar. Vivian, whose story was told at the beginning of this article, took her drugs faithfully and still lost her eyesight because she continued to eat foods she shouldn’t have.
A dietary approach is much better and doesn’t require drugs. Even if you are severely diabetic you can get your blood sugar under control using a low-carb, coconut oil-based diet. A low-carb diet can help control blood sugar levels. Coconut oil, in addition to helping with blood sugar, can reverse much of the damage caused by chronic high blood sugar.
Coconut oil can work wonders in alleviating symptoms associated with insulin resistance. Studies show that the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut oil improve insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity.6 This means, coconut oil can improve cell sensitivity to insulin and lower blood sugar levels. In addition, coconut oil can help keep blood sugar from spiking after meals. When added to foods, coconut oil slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, thus moderating blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance impedes glucose transport into the cells, essentially starving the cells, causing them to slowly degenerate and die. This is what leads to the major complications associated with diabetes. Blood vessels and capillaries degenerate and become leaky. Circulation is hampered. This leads to diabetic neuropathy (loss of feeling) in the feet and legs, which could progress to foot ulcers, gangrene, and amputation. It could also lead to a poor circulation to the eyes, the development of retinopathy, and vision loss.
Coconut oil can stop this degenerative process and restore the health and function of damaged blood vessels and capillaries, in the eyes. Unlike glucose or long chain fatty acids, MCFAs are not affected by insulin resistance. They do not require insulin to enter the cells. They easily diffuse across the cell membrane to provide the cells in the eyes with nourishment, allowing the blood vessels and capillaries to repair themselves and for proper circulation to be restored.
It has been estimated that up to 80 percent of the population has some level of insulin resistance (fasting blood sugar above 90 mg/dl) and that their cells are not absorbing glucose effectively. As a consequence, blood vessels and capillaries throughout the body are being damaged, which increases the risk of age-related eye disorders such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
For this reason, it is a good idea to have your eyes examined periodically. Also, have your fasting blood glucose levels checked every few years. If your blood sugar is high, you can take steps now to correct the problem and greatly reduce your risk of experiencing vision loss later on.
For a more complete discussion on how coconut oil combined with a proper diet can prevent, stop, and even reverse degenerative eye disorders see my new book Stop Vision Loss Now!♦
- Rodriguez, RR and Krehal, WA. The influence of diet and insulin on the incidence of cataracts in diabetic rats. Yale J Biol Med 1951;24:103-108.
- The effect of intensive treatment of diabetes on the development and progression of long-term complications in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. The Diabetes Control and Complications Research Group. N Engl J Med 1993;329:977-986.
- Chiu, CJ, et al. Carbohydrate intake and glycemic index in relation to the odds of early cortical and nuclear lens opacities. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1411-1416.
- Chiu, CJ, et al. Association between dietary glycemic index and age-related macular degeneration in nondiabetic participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:180-188.
- Warram, JH, et al. Slow glucose removal rate and hyperinsulinemia precede the development of type 2 diabetes in the offspring of diabetic parents. Ann Intern Med 1990;113:909-915.
- Stratton, IM, et al. Association of glycaemia with macrovascular and microvascular complications of type 2 diabetes (UKPDS 35): prospective observational study. BMJ 2000;321:405-412.
Stop Vision Loss Now
by Dr. Bruce Fife