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Vision Health Vision Health

The vision support category has morphed tremendously during the past decade due to a newer condition that has affected people of all ages. Here’s how to make the most of this category with your vision-support formula.

Only 20 years ago, the idea of a teenager dealing with the same eye issue as his/her grandparents would seem absurd.

Suppliers of vision-support ingredients all emphasize the significance of a lifestyle factor that is not a trend but a newer way of life.

According to Bob Capelli, CEO, BGG Americas, California, the concern about most eye health issues has been steady for decades “but what has changed recently is smartphone usage skyrocketing. Along with that, the incidence of computer vision syndrome (CVS) has also skyrocketed. The symptoms are eye fatigue, loss of eye accommodation (the ability of the eye to focus), eye strain, blurred vision, even double vision in some people,” he explained.

In the digital era, lives are increasingly dependent on screen-based technology, prolonging exposure to blue light, noted Julia Díaz, head of marketing, Pharmactive Biotech Products, S.L., Spain. In this context, adults are more concerned about how their lifestyle would compromise their vision and eye health, such as the development of eyestrain, dry eyes and related headaches. Even parents are concerned about the eye health of their children, as screen consumption increases in younger and younger children.

Currently, and what may have near future impact, is that “digital devices have quickly become a survival crutch for families as social distancing continues to stress our ability to keep occupied and socialize with friends, families and colleagues, especially during the new normal of COVID-19,” opined Brian Appell, marketing manager, OmniActive Health Technologies, Inc. in New Jersey.

Ensuring optimal levels of all three macular carotenoids—lutein, RS-zeaxanthin and RR (meso)-zeaxanthin—is critical to protecting the eye against high-energy blue light. Lutein and the zeaxanthin isomers (like those found in Lutemax 2020) absorb different wavelengths of light and, together, the three absorb a broader spectrum of high-energy blue light, which offers greater protection of retinal tissue.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 60 percent of Americans over 40 years old experience a vision or eye problem. Aging adults, or seniors, face the potential development of macular degeneration and cataracts, two of the most common age-related eye conditions. The CDC predicts that if eye health habits don’t change, by 2050 the U.S. will see significant spikes in eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (100 percent increase), cataracts (87 percent increase), and glaucoma (100 percent).

On top of this, added Sevanti Mehta, president, Unibar, Texas, “Adult consumers are becoming more concerned about the long-term effects that blue light exposure is causing when spending exorbitant amounts of time in front of an electronic screen, whether for work, school, or entertainment. CVS is often a result, with headaches, eye strain and blurred vision being the most frequent manifestations of too much time spent in front of blue light emitting devices.”

Mehta also pointed to a 2020 survey by the American Academy of Opthalamology and The Harris Poll, which yielded information about how American consumers view eye health—and what they know.

Key findings of this survey of among more than 3,500 U.S. adults age 18 and older are:

• While 81 percent of adults say they are knowledgeable about eye/vision health, less than one in five (19 percent) were able to correctly identify the three main causes of blindness in the U.S. (glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease).

• Less than half (47 percent) are aware that vision loss and blindness do not affect all people equally.

• Only around one-third of adults (37 percent) know you do not always experience symptoms before you lose vision to eye diseases.

• Less than half (47 percent) are aware your brain can make it difficult to know if you are losing your vision by adapting to vision loss.

“Consumers are finding themselves at greater risk for glaucoma, macular degeneration and other conditions because they do not realize the influence that intraocular pressure (IOP) and macular pigment ocular density (MPOD) have on their overall eye health,” commented Mehta. “There is a need to educate consumers about eye health in general so that they can take the necessary steps early on to maintain good vision health as they age.”

Significant Developments

In the vision health category, there have been several significant developments that have impacted ingredients during the past decade. Overall, observed Monica Mitchell, vice president of strategic brand sales and marketing for California-based Stauber, the evolution of the vision support category has resulted in newer technologies that can provide greater measurement of the macular and identity of macular pigment (MP), resulting in three carotenoids found in the macula. “These technologies reveal that (MZ) meso-zeaxanthin is the dominant carotenoid at the MP epicenter,” she said.

“Since AREDS II (Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2; JAMA), which was a major milestone in the evolution of scientific understating of the vision-diet link, many smaller yet very innovative studies took place,” commented Golan Raz, Head of Global Health Division, Lycored. “One recent 2019 insight came from a study that Lycored carried out with Alon Harris, professor of ophthalmology at Indiana University. Prof. Harris and his team were able to demonstrate how the addition of natural lutein from marigolds, together with natural beta-carotene and rosemary extract, improves blood flow around the eye. This is one example of the way a healthy diet containing quality nutrients can lead a change for the better in vision health.”

OmniActive, noted Appell, sponsored research on Lutemax and blue light; the B.L.U.E. (Blue Light User Exposure) study “was the first of its kind to demonstrate how macular carotenoids support visual function and reduce the symptoms of prolonged screen time, including sleep quality, eye strain and fatigue and headache frequency.”

B.L.U.E. was a six-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 48 young healthy subjects exposed to six hours per day of screen time and supplementing with Lutemax 2020 (20mg L/4 mg Zi) or placebo. The results showed that MPOD (macular pigment optical density), indicators of visual performance (such as contrast sensitivity, disability glare, photo stress recovery, visual processing speed), and symptoms resulting from prolonged blue light exposure (such as headache frequency, eye strain, eye fatigue and sleep quality) all significantly improved.

“The B.L.U.E. study demonstrates a direct link between supplementation with macular carotenoids and their protective qualities against persistent blue light exposure, which addresses the growing concern of prolonged ‘screen time’ that is happening across all age groups,” Appell stated.

According to Mehta, over the last five years, research into eye health nutrients have been more focused on xanthophyllic carotenoids, such as astaxanthin, capsanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, while still maintaining efforts to study the vision-support roles of zinc and the vitamins C and E. The National Eye Institute studied the effects of antioxidants and zinc to discover the role they play in age-related macular degeneration (AREDS/AREDS 2). They found that these supplements may reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD and vision loss by up to 25 percent and 19 percent respectively.

“The combination of lutein and zeaxanthin serves as a powerful antioxidant and many studies have supported its favorable effects on eye health, in particular for MPOD support and blue light protection,” he stated. “The success of these studies has caused researchers to discover new and powerful eye health solutions via the supplementation of various other carotenoid combinations. Unibar’s CapsiClear is one such combination—primarily made of capsanthin—that has already begun to show promising results in two recent clinical trials.”

The Blue-Light Buzz

A buzzword for eye health has become “blue light defense,” Capelli observed. The 2015 American Eye-Q survey by the American Optometric Association, showed that

• 59 percent of those surveyed responded that desktop computers and laptops were the devices that bothered them most. Mobile phones were second at 26 percent, followed by tablets at 8 percent.

• 61 percent of people surveyed admit to using multiple digital devices at the same time.

• 56 percent responded that their primary use for digital devices is entertainment (reading, watching movies or shows, video games).

• 76 percent of people know that blue light from digital devices affects vision.

Mehta added, “And according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, CVS affects 90 percent of the people who spend at least three hours per day at a computer. CVS occurs when the eyes focus on the computer display, or other blue light emitting screen, for a protracted amount of time resulting in fatigue, eye strain and dry eyes. We live in a digital world where most people are constantly connected to a smartphone and even sometimes using multiple digital devices at the same time, so blue light exposure is something consumers can relate to, as most have experienced the effects of CVS. Brands need to formulate eye health products that directly address the challenges associated with long sedentary hours exposed to blue light from work, study, or entertainment.

Another message is that eye-health nutrients may also benefit brain health and cognition, as research is beginning to show. In 2019, Appell reported, Lutemax 2020 was shown to positively affect cognitive performance in a six-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 59 healthy young adults aged 18 to 25 years. Supplementation with Lutemax 2020 showed significant relationships between the changes in serum/retinal levels of lutein and zeaxanthin isomers, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and reduced inflammation, which led to improvements in cognitive performance. “Results like these lend credence to the idea that macular carotenoids play a vital role in not only the eyes but also the brain by interrupting inflammatory pathways that can lead to a reduction in BDNF, which plays a role in learning and memory, according to Appell.

Carotenoids Crown the List

When envisioning an eye-health formula, the widely known carotenoids remain viable; research by suppliers on the efficacy of their vision-support ingredients are compelling. “Research has shown that many xanthophyllic carotenoids are found in the human retina and have potent eye health benefits,” Mehta commented, adding that after eight years of research and product development, Unibar developed a new xanthophyllic ingredient, CapsiClear. Extracted from Indian chili peppers, CapsiClear is described by Mehta as “the first-ever highly enriched and stabilized capsanthin ingredient to be studied for its ability to benefit both short- and long-term vision health. Standardized to at least 50 percent capsanthin and combined with zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin, CapsiClear provides a wider spectrum of benefits than other carotenoid ingredients in its class.”

Two initial clinical studies revealed that CapsiClear can support eye health by significantly improving macular pigment ocular density, and it helps to protect the eye from the effects of blue light, he explained. One study showed that CapsiClear helped improve reading speeds in blue and white light, compared to the placebo group. The same study suggested that supplementing with CapsiClear increased macular pigment optical density (MPOD) for quicker and more effective recovery from photostress, helping the eyes to recover more quickly after exposure to blue light, thus also helping to reduce eye strain and fatigue that often occurs from extended time using computers and similar devices.

“Most importantly, CapsiClear is currently the only solution in the marketplace that can address intraocular pressure (IOP) through an oral application,” he asserted. The second study on CapsiClear showed significant results in the reduction and maintenance of intraocular pressure, successfully reaching normalized levels after 28 days of supplementation. IOP may increase as a result of excessive screen exposure, stress and sedentary lifestyles and can cause blurry vision, ocular pain and headaches.

OmniActive’s Lutemax 2020 was put to the test in LAMA 1, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy young adults. And according to Appell, it was the first to show that macular carotenoid supplementation resulted in rapid retinal response and significant decreases in psychological stress and serum cortisol.

The study subjects were given three different doses of Lutemax 2020—specifically, lutein and zeaxanthin isomers at 6 mg (lutein)/1.2 mg (zeaxanthin isomers), 10 and 2 mg and 20 and 4 mg, respectively. Within two weeks, he reported, there was a statistically significant increase in serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations at all three doses.

After eight weeks in the study, the groups supplementing with both 10 and 20 mg Lutemax 2020 showed a statistically significant increase over placebo in macular pigment optical density (MPOD). After 12 weeks, all three doses resulted in a significant increase in MPOD. “Even at the lowest dose, supplementation resulted in a significant increase over placebo in MPOD much sooner than what would be predicted by previous findings from other studies,” commented Appell. “Further, there was improvement in the spatial profile of macular pigment where the greatest gains in optical density were shown in the very center of the macula, where the highest risk of photo-oxidative damage exists.”

BGG Group’s AstaZine Natural Astaxanthin is an ingredient that can cross the blood/brain and blood/retinal barriers and has a significant portfolio of studies showing how it benefits vision health, according to Capelli. “Two of areas of human clinical research with AstaZine have been in conditions known as eye fatigue and eye accommodation.”

One example is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating astaxanthin’s role on both eye fatigue and visual accommodation in 40 subjects. In the study, those who took 6 mg of astaxanthin daily for four weeks showed statistically significant benefits.

A study the following year corroborated these results, Capelli explained. “This was a crossover study which concluded that taking 6 mg of Natural Astaxanthin per day has the effects of reducing and preventing eye strain and accommodative dysfunction. This study showed both a prophylactic as well as a therapeutic potential of astaxanthin for eye conditions such as fatigue and accommodation. In other words, besides being able to prevent eye strain and fatigue and improve accommodation, Natural Astaxanthin also shows a capacity to reverse these conditions in people already afflicted with these disorders.”

AffronEYE, from Pharmactive Biotech Products, is all-natural, water-soluble, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), non-irradiated extract of Spanish saffron, which Diaz described as “derived from the delicate dried stigmas of Crocus sativus L. grown in Pharmactive-owned fields. The proprietary extraction process allows AffronEYE to claim the lowest dose available on the market at 20 mg/day and ensures the fastest absorption—faster than other traditional carotenoids.”

A new animal study suggests AffronEYE saffron may help reduce risk of onset of glaucoma, she reported. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics demonstrated an ability to protect retinal cells from damage and death, and reduce intraocular hypertension—a key aspect of glaucoma development. The 2019 study demonstrated the neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of AffronEYE (standardized to 3 percent crocin content) in a mouse model of unilateral, laser-induced ocular hypertension (OHT).

Subjects were comprised of two groups of glaucoma-induced male Swiss albino mice. One group received a single oral daily dose of AffronEYE over a period of seven days; the other group served as a control. After treatment with AffronEYE, the number of living retinal ganglion cells in the treated group was significantly higher in comparison to the non-treated group. The treated group maintained healthy eye levels by the end of the intervention. Protein biomarkers of inflammation were also reduced.

AffronEYE’s activities are attributed to its naturally occurring bioactive compounds, specifically crocins and crocetins. These carotenoids are reported to possess a full spectrum of anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and neuroprotective properties through their ability to scavenge free oxygen radicals, thus reducing retinal cell damage and cellular self-destruction.

Stauber’s Xanthosight, is described by Mitchell as “a unique free-form, carotenoid formulation, contains the three critical nutrients found in the macular pigment. There is significant, more than 30, peer-reviewed publications that demonstrate the efficacy of our formula, even as compared to lutein alone.”

It’s clear to see that vision support is more widely inclusive than ever, and that the need to address eye function in this new age of blue light will continue to be great. NIE

For More Information:

BGG Americas, www.bggworld.com
Lycored, www.lycored.com
OmniActive Health Technologies Inc., www.omniactives.com
Pharmactive Biotech Products, www.pharmactive.eu
Stauber, www.stauberusa.com
Unibar, www.unibarcorp.com

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