Baking soda (bicarbonate) is the chemical compound known for its magic. It makes sparkling water sparkle, causes bread to rise, absorbs odors from your refrigerator and can be used for cleaning all sorts of stuff, including your teeth.
In the body, it plays essential roles in buffering pH, aiding in digestion and neutralizing lactic acid produced during physical exertion.
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Much of the bicarbonate in our bodies comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced as a waste product in all cells, although some is ingested with carbonated beverages and certain types of foods.
Now a study published in the online edition of Journal of Biological Chemistry revealed that a pinch of baking soda can help people see better. Wondering how? The researchers say, baking soda modifies the visual signal generated by rod and cone photoreceptors in the eye that detect light.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Makino Laboratory at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, which is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, and Salus University.
Within rods and cone photoreceptors, a small soluble molecule called cGMP links photon absorption to the electrical activity of the photoreceptor. In the light, cGMP is destroyed and ion channels are closed.
Lead author Clint Makino, director of the Makino laboratory, said, “By opposing the effect of light, bicarbonate limits the size of the photon response and quickens its recovery. As a result, sensitivity to light is slightly lower, but our ability to track moving objects is improved.”
It is known that in some types of retinal diseases, a genetic defect causes cGMP in the rods and cones to rise to abnormally high levels. Once lost, rods and cones are not replaced, so an irreversible blindness is the tragic outcome.
In the future, scientists in the Makino Laboratory want to investigate the possibility that controlling bicarbonate levels in the eye will slow the progress of, or may even prevent, eye diseases.