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Sports, screens, and simulations: Eye health supplements address impact of blue light

Article-Sports, screens, and simulations: Eye health supplements address impact of blue light

© AdobeStock/tirachard Sports, screens, and simulations: Eye health supplements address impact of blue light
Increased exposure to laptops and mobile devices, a rise in e-gaming, and the role of spatial awareness in peak athletic performance mean eye health is under the spotlight like never before.

The supplement industry is responding to the increasing demand in the form of lutein- and zeaxanthin-based products that address the supposed damage from blue light emitted by visual displays.

“While there is no clinical evidence of a damaging effect of exposure to artificial high-energy blue light, children’s exposure to artificial light from electronic devices should be monitored and controlled,” said the Canadian Association of Optometrists.

“Over time, there might be accumulated damage to the eye from blue light exposure.”

Plant compounds shown to improve athletes’ vision

But blue light is not only an issue for the everyday consumer, whose screen time extends to the use of computers and other visual display units both as an occupation and also during leisure time.  

Many athletes now wear black or blue sunglasses to reduce the impact of blue light, which can affect visual range or how well they can see a target clearly over distance.

The impact of lutein and zeaxanthin on eye and brain health was the subject of a recent study, in which researchers explained how these plant compounds collect as yellow pigments in the retina and act as a filter to prevent blue light from entering the eye.

“We have shown that increasing amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin in the retina and brain decrease glare disability and discomfort, and improve chromatic contrast and visual-motor reaction time,” said corresponding author Billy Hammond, professor of psychology in the Behaviour and Brain Sciences Program at the University of Georgia’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“Supplementing these compounds facilitates executive functions like problem-solving and memory. All of these tasks are particularly important for athletes.”

E-gaming industry a driver for products that address eye health

Like bone and joint health, eye health is one area that spans across a series of sectors, including sports nutrition, cognitive health, and healthy ageing.

Lutein- and zeaxanthin-based products by companies such as Algatechnologies, AB-Biotics, Unibar Corporation, and Pharmalinea were originally conceived to address age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.

With the advent of e-gaming, for example, the area has evolved to encompass standalone products to address eye health and as key ingredients in products that look to address gamers’ physical and cognitive health.

Nature’s Bounty’s Brain Health Platform for gamers and esports pros includes Brain HP, a jelly bean-format supplement that includes lutein to help filter blue light and support visual perception, l-theanine to support reaction time, and Cognizn – a source of citicoline – to boost brain health.

OmniActive Health Technologies’ Lutemax 2020 and DSM/Kemin’s FloraGLO Lutein are also available as products aimed at the everyday consumer as well as e-gamers.

“FloraGLO Lutein has gained a new focus on cognitive function due to research connecting eye and brain health,” said Tyler Holstein, global product manager for carotenoids at Kemin Human Nutrition and Health, when the product was launched in 2021.

“FloraGLO Lutein has been shown to improve visual performance, specifically chromatic contrast, which is an important aspect in e-sports where a small edge can be critical for correct target identification, resulting in large gains."

Saffron, bilberry, and astaxanthin latest ingredients for eye health

The worldwide eye health supplement industry was valued at €1.4bn ($1.6bn) in 2020, with the market forecasted to maintain a 6.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through to 2027.

Part of this predicted growth stems from a drive to align with the global trend of self-care awareness among consumers, adding innovation to current preventative approaches and adopting a healthier ageing outlook.

© AdobeStock/AkuAku Eye health supplements address impact of blue light

This innovation encompasses the raft of ingredients catering to eye health, including saffron, bilberry, and astaxanthin.

But as with all new entrants to an established market, the interest may be offset by a lack of awareness from consumers about the mechanisms of action of nutrients on their eyes, opening up possibilities to improve consumer education in the category.

“Botanicals with strong antioxidant capacity are now being studied for potential benefits in the area of eye fatigue,” said Melanie Bush, director of science for Artemis International.

“Bilberry has long been considered for its vision support benefits, largely passed down from anecdotal usage,” she added.

“Another berry ingredient that has been generating some buzz in this area is blackcurrant, with its unique anthocyanin profile tied to its antioxidant capacity and other health benefits.

“Current clinical studies are under way to further explore this specific tie to vision fatigue and carve out blackcurrant as the vision ingredient to seek out for anyone suffering from screen-weary eyes.”