Antioxidants, Blue Light, + Visual Health

By: Dr. Deedra Mason

Visual health and ocular support continue to be not just the subject of growing research but also of a growing interest in supplement takers of all generations. As we become more and more reliant on our technology to stay connected to both the people we work with and play with, we increase our exposure to blue light which may be damaging over the long term.

The Risk:

Sources of blue light are not limited to just our devices either; artificial light contributes to our exposure.  As we spend more and more time inside, we have to consider how our daily activities are “adding to” or “taking away” from the quality of life factors.  While 60% of adult Americans spend greater than 5 hours per day cumulative on their devices and children spend on average 3 hours per day, we may be more productive, but we are likely to be more and more sedentary while also increasing the strain on our eyes due to the number of hours spent in front of our devices.

This daily strain on our eyes may manifest into a need for more light as you age, showing in difficulty reading and doing close work.  Printed materials may become less clear, in part because the lens in your eye becomes less flexible over time.  Additionally, you may see problems with glare particularly when driving, you may notice additional glare from headlights at night or sun reflecting off windshields or pavement during the day. Even changes in color perception may occur while the normally clear lens located inside your eye may start to discolor. This makes it harder to see and distinguish between certain color shades.

Sounds pretty grim, does it not?

 

What you can do:

Several naturally occurring antioxidants can offer not just a significant defense from blue light but also support the need for antioxidants that can offset the growing physical demand on our eyes.  These antioxidants are lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin.  These natural ingredients find themselves in the carotenoid family and go by the name xanthophylls.  These antioxidants are naturally derived and cannot be synthesized in the body, as such it is prudent to identify sources in both diet and supplementation that can meet the growing demand for our aging eyes.  Many experts agree supplementation to the diet has become a necessity if you use more than two devices throughout your day.

Studies continue to show, one of the main benefits of the mixture of Lutein and zeaxanthin in ocular formulas was not just its benefits as a substitute for beta-carotene, which is contraindicated in high amounts, especially in smokers, but also for their benefits in blocking blue light.  Lutein is a naturally occurring carotenoid found in many fresh fruits and vegetables that is one of only two carotenoids specifically located in the macula of the eye.  It acts as an antioxidant to protect the eye from free radicals and supports macular pigment density, which is considered essential to protect the eye from blue light.  Lutein acts almost like sunblock from both artificial as well as natural blue light waves.

Blue light waves are some of the greatest producers of oxidative stress in the macula and the retina making zeaxanthin also relevant as a free radical scavenger.  Like lutein, zeaxanthin is a naturally occurring carotenoid found in many fresh fruits and vegetables and is the most powerful antioxidant carotenoid found in the retina of the eye.  Together, lutein and zeaxanthin can offer a full spectrum of antioxidant support for ocular health.

FloraGLO® is a naturally-sourced lutein ingredient from marigold flowers used in high-quality supplementation.  FloraGLO® provides the same absorbable form of lutein found in the foods as well as being the source of lutein chosen by the investigators of the AREDS2 study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health. FloraGLO® has over 80 human clinical trials including bioavailability studies showing the starch form in FloraGLO is superior to alginate form when assessing plasma lutein.

Another concern related to our on-the-go lifestyles today is eye fatigue.  With so much visual information, social media and communication coming at us, I think fatigue is an appropriate word choice.   There are many clinical trials for the ingredient Pycnogenol and ocular health.  Interestingly Lutein and Pycnogenol have been studied together for their synergistic antioxidant potential.  In combination, lutein and pycnogenol offer a reduction in oxidative stress by 60%, which is protective of retinal lipids and results in benefits for overworked and dry eyes.

Conventional approaches to eye health, dry and overworked eyes, in particular, may rely on anti-inflammatories, which have limitations in prolonged usage.  As such, it has become necessary for practitioners to look for safer alternatives to support the health of their patients.  Essential fatty acids, both omega 6’s and 3’s and have proven to be an alternative as they have significant anti-inflammatory benefits that are realized in clinical studies for systemic inflammation, including dry eye.  In fact, clinical studies on Essential Fatty Acids include a reduction in inflammation of the ocular surface and lid margin as well as increase tear flow secretion. There is additional merit to algae-derived astaxanthin which is clinically supported for its benefits showing increased retinal blood flow, improved accommodation, increased visual acuity and reduction in Ocular Inflammation and eye fatigue.

The evidence for a combination of antioxidants, fatty acids and a mindful approach to our daily use (and miss-use) of technology is a prudent choice for better eye health today and in the future.

 

Resources:

Evans M, Beck M, Elliott J, Etheve S, Roberts R, Schalch W. Effects of formulation on the bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin: a randomized, double-blind, cross-over, comparative, single-dose study in healthy subjects. European Journal of Nutrition. 2013;52(4):1381-1391. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0447-9.

Nagaki Y, Hayasaka S, Yamada T, et al: Effects of astaxanthin on accommodation, critical flicker fusion, and pattern visual evoked potential in visual display terminal workers. J Trad Med 2002, 19: 170-173

Shiratori K, Ohgami K, Ohno S et al.: “Effects of astaxanthin on accommodation and asthenopia -efficacy-identification study in healthy volunteers -”, Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicine 2005; 21:637-650

Kenchegowda S, Bazan HEP. Significance of lipid mediators in corneal injury and repair. Journal of Lipid Research. 2010;51(5):879-891. doi:10.1194/jlr.R001347.

Pycnogenol® in combination with Lutein provides synergistic antioxidant activity for protecting retinal lipids from oxidation.

Nakanishi-Ueda T, Kamegawa M, Ishigaki S, Tsukahara M, Yano S, Wada K, Yasuhara H Inhibitory Effect of Lutein and Pycnogenol® on Lipid Peroxidation in Porcine Retinal Homogenate. J Clin Biochem Nutr 38: 204-210, 2006