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Seeing Is Believing

Albion Minerals®

The ability to see can give a person the capability to do many things independently such as drive a car, surf the internet, watch a movie or read a magazine.Having good vision may also be something that a person does not fully appreciate until the gift of sight is threatened.

According to market research from the 2011 Eye-Q survey from the American Optometric Association (AOA), vision health is the No. 1 thing that people fear of losing. Further, a recent consensus panel estimates the nearly half of Americans have low macular pigment optical density (MPOD), which is a possible risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD gradually destroys sharp, central vision, which is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Although AMD can occur during middle age, studies show that people over the age of 60 have the greatest risk of developing AMD. According to the AOA, AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 50. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately1. 8 million people in the U.S have AMD, and another 7.3million are at risk of losing their vision from AMD.

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD occurs when the lightsensitive cells in the macula (located in the center of the retina) break down, which results in the gradual loss of central vision. Dry AMD accounts for approximately 90 percent AMD cases.Wet AMD is not as common as dry AMD, as only 10 percent of those suffering with the disease have this type.However, 90 percent of all blindness caused by AMD is a result of wet AMD.Wet AMD is caused when new blood vessels grow under the retina and then bleed or leak, which damages the macula and eventually causes loss of central vision.

Like AMD, a cataract is an eye disease that is caused by a gradual thickening of the eye’s lens, which caused the lens to become clouded, which distorts and blocks what can be seen.According to the CDC, approximately 16 percent (20.5 million) of Americans aged 40 years and over have cataracts.While it is possible for children to develop cataracts, the risk of developing a cataract increases as a person ages.Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world.

With approximately 2.8 million Baby Boomers turning 60 in 2011, those belonging to the Boomer generation are now reaching the age in which agerelated eye diseases are added to a list of growing health concerns. “The market for vision health is a very exciting space as eye health is amongst leading health concerns,” said Hiren Doshi, vice president of OmniActive Health Technologies (Short Hills, NJ). “Poor eye health or blindness increases dependence in older age. Many conditions like AMD have no cure and can only be prevented by either proper diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin or supplementation of these vital nutrients.”

“The market is strong for sciencebased ingredients such as lutein and zeaxanthin for prevention of AMD,” added Brien Quirk, director of research and development for Draco Natural Products (San Jose, CA). “Diabetic retinopathy and cataract formation are also major causes of vision loss, and will be a growing problem with diabetes and obesity on the rise. Flavonoid carotenoids seems to dominate this field, and some specific botanicals such as goji berry, spinach and ginkgo biloba have good levels of bioactive phytocompounds.
Ginkgo biloba has had some research to support its positive effects in AMD. Spinach and kale extracts are a more natural bioavailable source of both lutein and zeaxanthin.”

Insightful Ingredients 

At the forefront for vision health ingredients are lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein is a carotenoid that is concentrated in the retina of the eye and it helps the retina and macular area function properly and helps the eye process blue light.Lutein cannot be produced by the human body, but it can be found in a number of fruits and vegetables including carrots, spinach, kale, corn, squash and other fruits and vegetable that are deep green, yellow and orange in coloring.Egg yolk is the only animal source of lutein.

“Part of our job is to make sure that people know that nutrition plays a big role in eye health and that people need to be getting 10mg of lutein on a daily basis to keep their eyes healthy,” said Corey Jansen, product manager for Kemin Health (Des Moines, IA). “While lutein is certainly something that people can get in their diet, most people just aren’t getting enough.” 

Kemin Health offers FloraGLO® Lutein sourced from marigold flowers and purified from marigold flower oleoresin.According to the company, a vision supplement with FloraGLO Lutein provides the same free lutein found in vegetables such as spinach, and is a Convenient solution to make sure people get the 10mg of lutein they need on a daily basis.

“Historically, lutein has been used to prevent AMD,” explained Doshi. “While the condition ‘macular degeneration’ may happen in older age, it is important to understand that the foundation for it is laid in much younger years when diets are deficient in lutein. Hence, early supplementation of lutein is very essential, not just for aging population.” 

Like lutein, zeaxanthin is a cartenoid that is found in the retina of the eye. It protects the eye by absorbing blue light that can cause oxidative stress in the eye. While the body cannot produce zeaxanthin, it can be obtained by a number of food sources such as orange peppers, zucchini, celery, sweet potatoes and tangerines.

Unfortunately, many Western diets are low in both lutein and zeaxanthin, and while there is no recommended daily intake for luetin and zeaxanthin, studies show that there is benefit in taking 10mg of lutein daily and 2mg of zeaxanthin daily.

OmniActive Health Technologies’ line of vision health products under the Lutemax range of Free Lutein and Lutein Esters has been offered since 2004 and, according to the company, has been very successful. Its newest ingredient, Lutemax 2020, includes lutein with enhanced levels of zeaxanthin isomers. In addition, OmniActive launched natural zeaxanthin from paprika in partnership with Kalsec, Inc. (Kalamazoo, MI) at SupplySide West 2011 in Las Vegas, NV.

“Lutein and zeaxanthin lead the pack for eye health ingredients,” said Doshi.“Due to the solid science supporting it, lutein has been continuing to grow ever since its launch over a decade ago. And zexanthin has been available and launched commercially only recently; being in its early days, it is experience strong growth as more and more companies are adopting it.” 

Along with lutein and zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, omega-3s and bilberry extract are among the ingredients that have been utilized in supporting vision health. Beta-carotene is a cartenoid substance found in plants like the goji berry and is responsible for giving orange and yellow fruits and vegetables their color.Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A by the body, and vitamin A helps the body maintain good vision and eye health.

There is a high concentration of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the retina of the eye. EFAs are not only an important during vision development of infants, but they help protect the eyes from becoming damaged.There are three main EFAs: alphalinolenic acid (ALA), which is plant derived, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can be found in various types of fish. “Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is another ‘universal’ antioxidant that appears to be very popular in many of the new combination ‘eye formulas,” said Daniel Tepper, MD of Lotus Eyecare, PC (Chicago, IL). According to Andreas Koch, marketing director for Barlean’s (Ferndale, WA) the company’s most successful product is Highest Lignan Flax Oil, which is rich in ALA.

Bilberries have been associated with eye health for some time. During World War II, British pilots reported increased night vision after eating bilberry jam. The bilberry, which is similar in appearance to the blueberry, is an antioxidant that protects the blood vessels in the eyes.

“It has already been largely reported by various papers that bilberry extract, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene are very good ingredients for vision health,” said Cecilia Woo, marketing executive for the Alhambra, CA-based Cactus Botanics Limited. The company has a number of ingredients that promote vision health including lutein, bilberry extract and its newest development is increasing the purity of its zeaxanthin from five percent to 40 percent HPLC.

Technological Disadvantage & Innovation 

As technology advances seemingly at the speed of light, the list of products at a consumer’s disposal is growing rapidly— smart phones, e-readers, digital cameras, hand-held video games, GPS systems and even digital screens in cars are now commonplace and are being used multiple times daily. Further, many universities are replacing textbooks with computer tablets, allowing students to download e-textbooks. While backpacks are much lighter, spending hours staring at glowing screens may be damaging young eyes. “In my opinion, research and technology in this area is lagging,” said Tepper.

“Blue light and UV are both known to cause eye strain, UV can cause cataracts, and both may increase the risk of AMD,” added Draco’s Quirk.“With that in mind, botanicals that help to quench free radicals generated by UV could play a major role.” Only with time and more research will it be understood what the long-term effects of using these pocket-sized devices have on the eyes and overall vision health.

Continuing research and innovation is at the core to discovering new ingredients and methods to support and maintain vision health. “New innovation is vital and this includes offering new products based on cutting-edge research and understanding the physiological mechanisms behind eye problems,” explained Quirk. “Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a promising new area of research for macular degeneration since the retina, which is involved in AMD, is a type of nerve tissue. Much research is exploring botanical extracts for their effects on NGF.” 

In addition to offering ingredients such as goji berry extract and bilberry 25 percent anthocyanins for eye health, Draco Natural Products is also has other ingredients such as ginkgo biloba and honeysuckle berry to support vision health. According to Quirk, honeysuckle berry is a new extract standardized to five percent anthocyanins. “This has some research showing it helps with a serious eye inflammation disorder known as uveitis, marked by inflammation and redness of the uvea lining beneath the cornea which causes progressive eye damage,” he said.

Ensuring the bioavailability and purity of a particular eye health ingredient is important to supplement manufacturers. For instance, lutein is sensitive to storage and heat. “When considering ingredients for vision supplements, manufacturers need to make sure that their customers are getting the benefits that they pay for,” explained Jansen. “For starters, a manufacturer should have human clinical data on the actual ingredient being used in their product.
Certain ingredients, including lutein, are unstable in their purified forms and must be wrapped in a protective coating for inclusion into the eye vitamin.Data indicates these different coatings may significantly impact the bioavailability of the ingredient.” 

Whether a person is wondering about age-related eye problems, or eyestrain from squinting at the latest smart phone, a consumer’s first step guaranteeing that they are “seeing” to their vision health is visiting an eye doctor.
With the CDC reporting that only half of the estimated 61 million adults in theU. S. classified as being high risk for serious vision loss visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months, making that appointment is more important than ever. With a doctor’s knowledge and guidance, choosing the appropriate vision health supplement could help a person see better longer.

High Vitamin D Levels May Protect Women From AMD

A Study of data collected from the “Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS)” showed high serum vitamin D concentrations may protect against early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women under the age of 75. Researchers from the University of Buffalo published their findings in the journal, Archives of Ophthalmology.

The study looked at the relationship between serum 25- hydroxy vitamin D (25[OH]D) concentrations (n mol/L) and the prevalence of early AMD in women. Researchers assessed AMD status using stereoscopic fundus photographs, taken from 2001-04. Baseline serum samples obtained form 1994-98 were available for 25(OH)D assays in 1,313 women with complete ocular and risk factor data. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95-percent confidence intervals (CIs) for early AMD (n = 241) of 1,287 without advanced disease were estimated with logistic regression and adjusted for age, smoking, iris pigmentation, family history of AMD, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hormone therapy use.

In multivariate models, no significant relationship was observed between early AMD and 25(OH)D (OR for quintile 5 vs. 1, 0.79; 95 percent CI,0.50- 1. 24; P for trend = .47). A significant age interaction (P = .002) suggested selective mortality bias in women aged 75 years and older: serum 25(OH)D was associated with decreased odds of early AMD in women younger than 75 years (n = 968) and increased odds in women aged 75 years or older (n = 319) (OR for quintile 5 vs 1, 0.52; 95 percent CI,0.29-0.91; P for trend = .02 and OR, 1.76; 95 percent CI, 0. 77-4.13; P for trend = .05, respectively).

After adjusting for body mass index (BMI) and recreational physical activity, researchers found predictors of 25(OH)D, attenuated the observed association in women younger than 75 years. Additionally, intake of vitamin D from foods and supplements among women younger than 75 years was related to decreased odds of early AMD in multivariate models, but no relationship was observed with self-reported time spent in direct sunlight.

For more information, visit www.maculardegeneration association.org.