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Seeing the Difference

Vision Health Vision Health
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With outside factors impacting human eyesight, ingredient suppliers and manufacturers are determining new ways to support vision health.

As people age, the general notion is that vision declines. In 2017, with the screens of various electronics emitting blue light, the question now is how early one’s vision will be impacted.

Suppliers continue to stay up-to-date on popular ingredients in the field that are implemented via innovative delivery methods—and that are greatly influenced by scientific research.

Ingredients & Concerns

Vision health has been an area of concern for decades, but as the years have progressed, so too have the ingredients used in this category.

“The first group of ingredients used to manufacture eye products were vitamins and carotenes, which have been part of our culture for decades,” said Ivan Mimica, vice president of sales and marketing with Maqui New Life Group (MNL Group) in Chile. “However, over the years, there has been a specialization in the ingredients that can be used since the surface of the eye is lubricated and nourished by both aqueous and lipid compounds. For this reason, it is possible to find ingredients in the supplements corresponding to both categories. Among the ingredients of lipid nature we typically mention lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids. The most known aqueous ingredients are anthocyanins, colored compounds found in berries, which have a very high antioxidant power. Within the latter group, the most used anthocyanins are those found in bilberry extracts (Vaccinium myrtillus) and maquiberry extracts (Aristotelia chilensis), with the anthocyanins of the maquiberry being the most powerful ones.”

In a National Eye Institute (NEI) article titled “For the Public: What the AREDS Means for You,” the NEI cited that in 2001, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) revealed that the AREDS formula (a supplement) could lower the chance of developing what is known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

While this original AREDS formulation has vitamins C and E, zinc, beta-carotene and copper, a 2006 study titled AREDS2 looked to further improve the formulation by adding omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin, while removing beta-carotene and lowing the zinc dosage from 80 to 25 mg.

According to Lynda Doyle, senior vice president of global marketing with New Jersey-based OmniActive Health Technologies, ingredients involved with AREDS are vital due to the fact that they address today’s most pressing issues surrounding vision.

“AREDS-based ingredients are the go-to ingredients. But the three macular carotenoids lutein, RR-zeaxanthin and RS- (meso) zeaxanthin are the leading ingredients in the eye health market because of their fundamental role filtering high-energy blue light, protecting against oxidative stress and supporting overall visual function,” she noted. “At every stage of life, the macular carotenoids support these critical roles that, if sufficient amounts are supplied in the diet, they will preserve visual function well into old age. However, because most people don’t get sufficient levels of lutein and zeaxanthin isomers in the diet, supplementation is recommended for infants, children, teens, adults and seniors.”

By keeping up with the latest and most effective ingredients, manufacturers are able to address various concerns, including the effects of excess blue light.

“Kemin believes there are opportunities for eye health supplement companies to help consumers at risk for blue light overexposure,” said Ceci Snyder, global vision product manager with Iowa-based Kemin Industries, Inc. “Sixty percent of adults use digital devices more than five hours daily.1 With the known challenges of eating sufficient levels of these nutrients from food,2 eye supplements can provide an option to increase macular pigment density.”

Doyle agreed with Snyder, and stressed the importance of vision protection, but at the same time, acknowledged the significance of performance.

“Protecting vision and preventing the onset of age-related eye diseases like AMD are the most common motivations for manufacturers,” she said. “However, prevention is just one aspect. Visual performance is another concern and it’s a larger opportunity in this category.

“OmniActive is exploring this new opportunity with its clinical research and showing that supplementing with macular carotenoids—a key nutrient for eye health—improves visual performance like contrast sensitivity (the ability to differentiate between objects), glare performance (the ability of eyes to perform under bright light conditions) and photostress recovery (the ability of the eyes to return to normal vision after a bright flash like that from a camera). So, given this new research, manufacturers can focus on new applications—improving visual performance.”


MaquiBright, a vision health ingredient manufactured by the MNL Group, is the only standardized extract derived from Patagonian maqui (Aristotelia chilensis) berries, according to the company’s website. In turn, it helps with tear fluid production for dry eyes.

The use of originality has ultimately allowed it be more effective.

“Innovation was essential to ensure peak biological properties of this product,” noted Nick Bronkema, marketing manager with Charles Bowman & Company (Michigan), who exclusively represents the MNL group in North America. “The anthocyanins content in maqui berry can oxidize very quickly upon harvest of the fruit; we make sure that this can’t happen. The berries are stored and shipped in temperature-controlled environments to maintain the amazing biological activity of the maqui.

“In the initial phases and creation of the ingredient, we really had to focus on utilizing the anthocyanins in the most effective way [while] also differentiating the product from other anthocyanin heavy products on the market. Normally, when talking about anthocyanins or polyphenols, people imagine that all compounds are just generic antioxidants; this is a huge misconception. Many products claim their antioxidant power and anthocyanin content as ORAC power; the ORAC measurement considers any molecule with an antioxidant capacity as a part of the total value, even if it is impossible for the molecule to be absorbed and utilize by the human body. Even more, different anthocyanins have different bioavailability values and may be found in different organs in the human body after consumption—maqui berry anthocyanins have the capacity to concentrate in eye tissues to exert their biological effect.”

NutriScience Innovations, LLC in Connecticut, suppliers of OptiLut, a lutein concentrate from marigold flowers (Tagetes erecta), has ran with the concept of creativity and innovation via its expansion of delivery methods, ranging from powders to oils.

“Innovation is definitely key,” said Stacey Daigle, director of sales and marketing with the company. “We are happy to offer customers a rich portfolio of options of lutein esters, Lutein:Zeaxanthin Complex and Zeaxanthin. We offer extremely customizable options, and the ability to formulate with powder, beadlets and oils. We also provide cold-water soluble options. Additionally, mesh size is very important for customers depending on their applications. We are also able to tailor-make our lutein products based on their mesh size requirements.”

State of the Market

The vision health market is continuing to show an upward trend due to a variety of factors, including two that are constantly changing: technology and age.

“The eye health category has consistently grown at about 5.5 percent since 2010 and approximately $450 million annually (NBJ 2015). Traditionally, vision health has been a market for the aging demographic at risk for vision-related issues including cataracts and AMD, and that represents a global consumer base of about 700 million users,” noted Doyle. “However, if we take into consideration other demographics where eye health is a concern—specifically people using digital devices for extended periods of time—the market potential balloons to as high as three billion globally. It’s pretty big (Frost&Sullivan 2016).”

When it comes to shedding light on the blue light issue, Bronkema stressed its importance.

“We have seen a growing trend of companies focusing on vision health,” he added. “Natural and effective ingredients that improve all aspects of eye health seem to have shifted to a top priority within many of the companies we regularly talk with. There is a growing concern on the harms of blue light and we think it has really raised an awareness of vision health in general.”

As a result, manufacturers and suppliers alike have a plethora of factors to consider not only when selecting and formulating new products, but when conducting research as well.

Formulation & Research

When it comes to product formulation, a fundamental detail to be aware of is how it appeals to the consumer.

If it is convenient through its delivery methods, it gives customers a chance to choose from various options that suit their specific needs.

“In order to gain the most benefit from the product, it must be taken regularly—therefore, it is important to be able to offer different delivery options to best suit the preferences of the individual consumer,” Daigle said. “Newer delivery systems such as functional foods and beverages help to attract a new segment of potential consumers that may not be interested in taking another pill. The wide range of OptiLut Lutein offerings ensures ease of formulating lutein and zeaxanthin into just about any type of product, from traditional soft gel and capsule applications to functional foods and beverages.”

However, a successful production process all starts with establishing a good work relationship.

When selecting ingredients and formulating new products, for long-term success, manufacturers need reliable suppliers who have a strong industry background. “Manufacturers should ask about the science and ongoing technical support behind an ingredient,” noted Snyder. “Kemin has a track record of science in the eye supplement area, with a statement we stand behind: ‘Science-Backed, Not Borrowed.’”

As stated earlier, the development of AREDS and AREDS II helped shape vision health research to what it has become today.

“The core study that linked nutrition and supplementation with vision health was the AREDS (age related eye disease study). This mega study triggered a list of scientific investments searching for a better understanding of the relationship between nutrition and vision,” said Golan Raz, vice president of health and nutrition at Lycored (part of the Adama Group), which has a location in New Jersey. “The follow-up study known as AREDS II took additional steps in the investigation of the effect of specific nutrients on age-related eye diseases.

“Also, pre-clinical studies added to the overall body of knowledge we currently have in this area. A good example is the discovery of the importance of tomatoes: lycopene for vision health. The insight here is, that lycopene plays a major role in the protection of lutein on its way to the macula. Such findings are helping formulators to improve their products and help achieve better efficacy.”

The range of research, development and studies surrounding the largest matters at hand are proving to be effective, as the proper professionals are gathering data that could be useful down the road.

“With a market that includes infants, children, adolescents, Millennials and adults who are increasingly exposed to high-energy blue light, we expect the macular carotenoids will be a critical addition to visual health and performance,” said Doyle. “Because of our ‘digital lifestyle,’ people are increasingly exposed to high-energy blue light from sources including computer screens, tablets, smartphones, energy-efficient lights and even sunlight. Consumers and eye care professionals are becoming more aware of high-energy blue light and how it can impact visual health.” NIE


1. The Vision Council. (2016) Eyes Overexposed: The Digital Device Dilemma. www.thevisioncouncil.org/sites/default/files/2416_VC_2016eyestrain_report_web.pdf.

2. Johnson E, Maras J, Rasmussen H, and Tucker K (2010). Intake of lutein and zeaxanthin differ with age, sex, and ethnicity. J Am Diet Assoc. 110: 1357-1362.

For More Information:
Charles Bowman & Company, (616) 786-4000
Kemin Industries, Inc., (515) 559-5100
Lycored U.S., (844) 668-2483
NutriScience Innovations, LLC, (203) 372-8877
OminActive Health Technologies, (866) 588-3629

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