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Rick’s Macular Pigment Challenge Week 1 “I have a secret…”

Rick’s Macular Pigment Challenge wk #1

Rick Brigg here, Optical Assistant, “MPOD tester” and chief coffee maker at the Spectacle Shop Opticians in Barnsley! Find out more about my Spectacle Shop story in my first ever blog postI have a terrible secret which I will confess about half way down this blog…

What challenge? Facts you need to know!

  • we run a free test that measures the level of macular pigment (MP) in the eyes – macular pigment is the yellow pigmented spot found in the centre of the retina known as the macula. The MP plays a critical role in protecting the macula from harmful blue light and in helping to maintain the function of the macula.
  • The level of the MP varies from person to person and can also change over time depending on several factors such as age, lifestyle (smoking and drinking have a big effect, lack of exercise), dietary choices and genetics.  If you have a low level of macular pigment, research suggests that you may be at an increased risk of developing Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)
  • we have tested over 300 patients to date and the lowest pigment level recorded at 0.01 and the highest pigment level 0.92. (It may help to think of these scores in the context of a percentile scale 0-100%). If the pigment level falls below approximately the 0.33 we recommend dietary and lifestyle changes that will help to increase the pigment levels, and if it is particularly low we recommend supplements that can help in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle. Changing one’s lifestyle NOW can reduce the chances of developing Age Related Macular Degeneration – the main cause of blindness in the UK.

This is quite a simplistic overview for the purposes of explaining the context of my “challenge”, here is more in depth information regarding regarding ARMD and the MPOD/Macular Pigment screening.

snipI have a shameful secret… of the 300 people that we have tested Macular Pigment levels so far – mine, at 28 years old was one of the very lowest. I tested as having virtually ZERO pigment in my eyes. My reading was 0.14 in one eye & 0.05 in the other.  To put this into context, I have been testing patients into their 80’s and 90’s who had higher levels of macular pigment than I did. 

So what does this mean? Well, if I am honest – it was quite scary for me. It was very scary.  And a little embarrassing – it is very difficult to sit with patients and advise about lifestyle changes and dietary changes, when you know in the back of your mind that you are not a “product of the product”, by that I mean – I needed to take a serious look at my diet and my lifestyle.  The macular pigment reading is a good indicator of the way that your body is performing in general – we tested a lady who was juicing fruit and vegetables every day and had been for years, and her pigment levels were sky high – you can bet your bottom dollar that the rest of her body was functioning on an equal level, she was healthy. She looked healthy, told me she felt vibrant and full of energy.

The crazy thing is this – EVERYTHING that we need to keep our eyes healthy (and our bodies in general) is there – growing in the ground, all provided for us. If we were meant to eat processed burgers and smoke cigarettes – they would be growing in the veg patch at the back of the house. Have you ever seen a cigarette tree? Or a burger plant? (if you have you need your eyes testing!).

When I took honest stock of my lifestyle and my diet – here were the findings. Shamefully, I was smoking on average 20 cigarettes a day (sorry mum, if you are reading this…) drinking quite heavily over the weekend and sometimes during the week (sorry again, mum). My diet was not great – very little fruit and vegetable intake, eating a lot of takeaways, and exercising at most once a week. I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I needed, feeling drained, tired, drinking too much coffee and in general, just not living a healthy lifestyle.

So, I decided to set myself a challenge… by Christmas (2015…) I want to have increased my pigment levels to 0.33 in both eyes, which is STILL low, but it is a heck of a lot better than 0.05… and in the process I will have significantly improved my general health, and the likelihood of my developing Macular Degeneration in later life.

My Plan to achieve this… stop smoking, improve my diet, including regular “juicing”, reduce my alcohol intake and do more exercise… simple?! 

g2“What’s in it for me?” you ask…

I am going to be focusing largely around the dietary changes, and posting a monthly update, with the changes that I am making – including recipes and juicing ideas as I go along. My hope is that the changes that I make may inspire people not just of my age and younger, but of all ages to make changes that are going to improve their eye health but there general health also. At the Spectacle Shop we do not promote ourselves as a “retail outlet”, our goal is quite different. We care about the health of your eyes, Phil commented to me a couple of weeks ago that it is so sad to see customers that we have dealt with for years having problems with their eyesight that could have been prevented with something as basic as making simple changes to diet and lifestyle. Macular Degeneration is the biggest cause of blindness in the UK, and of course, everything does deteriorate with age, but if we can take steps earlier on in life to reduce our chances of this happening, are we not crazy to do so? So my hope is that some of our customers, new and old, may join me on a journey to improved eye care and general health.

What have I done so far to kick-start my journey?

My first step was to cut down on my smoking and I am proud to say that since Friday 9th October I have smoked only one cigarette – as opposed to the 120 that I would have smoked. Furthermore, I have for the first time tried my hand at juicing – see images! Here is the first recipe that I tried. Now, if you have read my blog on eye nutrition then you will know that kale is super for the eyes, packed full of Lutein. Here is my first juicing attempt: (I even brought some into work for the customers and Phil and Dan, and it was well received (on the whole…)

g5Happy Green Juice 

1 cucumber  2 celery stalks   2 pears   1/3 cantaloupe   6-8 kale leaves   1/2 lemon   1 inch of ginger

The instructions are really pretty simple – cut it all up, and blend it in your blender/juicer then I left mine to chill over night and enjoyed it for breakfast in the morning. I have done this for two mornings now and I have to say I have felt more energetic during the day. I have added a few snaps of my juicing throughout the blog post. 

If you would like to join me on the journey, you can keep track of my progress, my recipes, my top tips for eye care on Facebook, our website Google+ or  email the team for advice Or go right ahead and book your FREE Macular Pigment Screening. 


Rick Brigg