Digital devices may cause damage to the eyes, but the latest natural products and supplements can help practitioners ease their patients’ worries.
As one of the five senses, the gift of sight is often chosen in polls as the sense that people would least likely want to give up. Unfortunately for some, they aren’t given the choice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that an estimated 61 million adults in the U.S. are at high risk for serious vision loss; however, only half of them have visited an eye doctor in the past year. Further, the CDC adds that approximately 12 million people age 40 and over have vision impairment, including 1 million people who are blind, 3 million who have vision impairment after correction and 8 million who have vision impairment as a result of an uncorrected refractive error.
It’s commonly been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and practitioners are working to the best of their ability to ensure that their patients are provided with the most valuable natural options towards combatting vision health that is substantially supported by science.
When it comes to vision health, the most common issues that can arise tend to be dryness, age-related and partially due to diabetes.
“Some of the most common eye health issues are dry eye issues, age-related eye diseases such as AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and cataracts, as well as complications arising from diabetes—known as diabetic retinopathy,” explained Bryan See, business development manager with ExcelVite Sdn. Bhd. (Malaysia and New Jersey), makers of EVNol, a natural full-spectrum tocotrienol/tocopherol complex. “Dry eye issues usually arise from prolonged exposure to electronic screens; meanwhile, AMD and cataracts happen as one ages. Long-term diabetic patients, on the other hand, are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy due to a high level of glucose.”
And best believe technology is impacting the category—specifically bright screens.
“According to the new Nielsen Company audience report in 2016,” See added, “adults in the United States spend on average about 10 hours [per day] staring at electronic gadgets.1 While it has been accepted as normal nowadays to always be on the screen—whether it is for work or social pleasure, the side effect that it brings is undeniable. The prolonged exposure to these gadgets would cause discomfort to the eyes in terms of eye fatigue, dry eyes and worse, it could disrupt one’s good vision. On the other hand, the older generation is prone to having age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Therefore, people, regardless of young and old, want a product that would improve their vision health.”
Dr. Bill Koppin, optometrist and owner of Shades Optical in Michigan, was in complete agreement.
“The most common are cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetes,” he said. “But we also now know that the eyes can give us visibility (pun intended) into full body health. So, our Shades Optical eye exams allow us to map the layers of the eyes and test the tear glands and contrast sensitivity and much more—so that we can prevent overall health imbalances that lead to issues.
“The increased use of screens does impact patients in a handful of ways,” Dr. Koppin added. “We offer a Shades Optical computer eye exam and lenses that help compensate for the use of devices so patients can more comfortably see. In addition, the increased usage of digital devices creates an increase of dry eye disease. When looking at digital devices, our blink rate drops by as much as two-thirds. When we are not blinking, it becomes easy for our oil glands to get congested and a buildup of bacteria in the tear layer. It is our experience more and more that kids, teens and young adults are having an increase in dry eye disease from the increase in digital devices.”
In fact, what patients may be unaware of is the severity of AMD. According to Michael Jurgelewicz, DC, DACBN, DCBCN, CNS, managing director, clinical research and development, Connecticut-based Designs for Health (DFH) which offers OcuForce for eye health, it is actually the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. Poor diet and lifestyle that can lead to cardiovascular disease, obesity or diabetes can increase the AMD risk.
And concerning the aforementioned blue light situation, the science behind its impact is relatively recent so to speak.
“We’re learning more about the effects of ‘screen time’ and non-natural lighting conditions that have only been a major factor in the daily rituals of people over the past 25 years or so,” Evan Molnar, the company’s director of product innovation pointed out. “Science is catching up to figure out what can be done to not only stop this functionally (e.g., blue light glasses) but internally, with dietary supplementation. While AMD has usually focused on the elderly population, the effects of blue light on the younger computer, phone and tablet users could be extraordinary in the coming years.”
With vision health being such a priority, there are a plethora of potential ways to combat these concerns.
“ … The modern diet is deficient in some micronutrients that are vital to the normal physiology of the eye,” said Dr. Jorge E. Angel, medical advisor with Equisalud in Spain. “Blue light from computers and mobile screens can accelerate the deterioration of the retina and ultimately, macular degeneration. Nutritional supplements can be a vital support for normal eye functioning and thus compensate eye stress.”
Dr. Angel also referenced several supplements that could be helpful to vision, such as:
• Beta Carotene: When ingesting beta carotene of natural origin, it is transformed to vitamin A in the mucosa of the small intestine, and then is stored mainly in the liver as a retinol ester. It is a provitamin A with is an essential nutrient for many metabolic processes. It generates pigments necessary for the functioning of the retina. It plays an important role in the development of a good vision, especially in the dim light. Beta carotene also has antioxidant properties that help eliminate free radicals preventing cellular aging.
• Zinc: It is an important mineral for the proper functioning of the immune system. This mineral forms part of many important enzymes in metabolism. About 100 enzymes depend on the catalytic action of zinc. The loss of this mineral in cell membranes produces oxidative damage. Zinc is vital in the physiology of the eye, since much pathology is based on oxidative damage.
Equisalud offers HoloRam Vision, which Dr. Angel noted helps promote the regulation of blood flow and the micro nutrition of the eye structures, more notably the retina and photoreceptors that help collect light.
Further, a combination of healthy lifestyle and diet—along with lutein and zeaxanthin—will also go a long way.
“ … At Shades Optical, we emphasize the importance of a clean nutritional lifestyle and specific supplements,” Dr. Koppin said. “You can enhance the wellbeing of your eyes and vision through UV light protection and having proper nutrition. The pigments that we absorb from the vegetables we eat, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin, form an internal filter in the macula. This filter protects against sun light, harmful blue light and absorbs free radicals. At high levels, this filter improves night vision, glare reduction and contrast sensitivity. Lutein comes from leafy green vegetables. Spinach and kale have the most amount lutein per weight. Zeaxanthin is found in red, orange and yellow vegetables.
“Vitamin supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin works well. A Mediterranean-type diet with five to seven servings of vegetables a day is recommended. Avoid processed foods and refined sugars. We recommend organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) whole foods.”
Dr. Jurgelewicz provided additional recommendations:
• Astaxanthin is another carotenoid that has been shown to relieve eye fatigue, alleviate eye strain, promote good circulation and nourishment to the eyes, mitigate oxidative stress, promote visual acuity and enhance depth perception.
• Bilberry is an extensively studied berry that is a rich source of an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which has been demonstrated to help maintain a clear and focused vision, reduce eye dryness and reduce eye strain and fatigue.
• Ginkgo biloba is a botanical that contains high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids, and has been shown to improve glaucoma, is an antioxidant, and increases blood flow to the eye, specifically to the optic nerve.
• Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have demonstrated improvement in dry eye symptoms.
And as Dr. Angel noted, the value of carotenoids is also quite high, an opinion that is echoed throughout the industry.
“Carotenoids are long-established in vision health care and have been commonly incorporated into eyecare products,” See said. “This is due to the AREDS clinical research that shows the advancement of age-related macular degeneration slows down upon the supplementation of antioxidants including beta-carotene and zinc.2 Apart from this, there is other research that supports the protective role of carotenoids toward eyes. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an association between the intake of beta-carotene and vitamin A with age-related macular degeneration among elderly women in Korea.3
“Tocotrienols are natural compounds that could be found in select vegetable oils such as palm oil, and the presence of this isoform of vitamin E is quite low in the daily North American diet. With the emerging evidence of tocotrienol in supporting eye health, it is no surprise that tocotrienols also are being incorporated into vision health products.”
A Positive Outlook
The market for vision health products presents plenty of promise, due to the combination of consumers either wanting to maintain their sight or improve it, especially the older generations.
“A report from Global Market Insights predicted that there will be a growth of over 6 percent up to the year 2024 for eye health ingredients from natural sources,” See said. “This is because of consumers’ demand for a supplement that could not only ensure their healthy 20/20 vision but relieve them from their eye problems. Between 2000 and 2010, there was an 18 percent surge of reported cases of age-related eye disease in the U.S. The aging of the Baby Boomer generation will increase the prevalence of age-related eye disease, hence also driving the demand for vision health products.”
In fact, as we move forward into this new decade, technology that can help identify illnesses is believed to only improve in the coming years.
“As our innovation advances, so does our ability to test more precisely and prevent illness,” Dr. Koppin said. “The practitioners who are committed to staying at the forefront must be open to constantly evolving information and treatments. This is why we continue to make investments in tools and systems that allow us to upgrade our offerings and map our patients.”
And as companies are becoming more aware of the repercussions of blue light, the additional data is providing additional reasons to consider supplementing.
“The term ‘prevention is better than cure’ has never been more accurate,” See added. “According to data in 2010, 80 percent of visual impairment including blindness is actually avoidable.4 As it might be impossible for the young generation to reduce the number of hours staring at the screen due to work commitment, a good supplement for the eyes will ensure the effects of the strain and dry eyes are not worsening.
“In addition, the prevalence of age-related eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy has also invoked more people to start supplementing. The Global Market Study on Eye Health Supplements published by Persistence Market Research predicted that the revenue for supplementation for age-related macular degeneration will expand 1.7 times by the end of 2024 as compared to that in 2016.5 The abundant number of research on age-related eye disease also makes it easier for the scientist/product formulator to come out with a product containing ingredients that are proven to be effective. The association studies between carotenoid intake with cataracts and AMD progression have not only increased the public’s consumption of fruits and vegetables, but the people also start looking for supplement products containing bioavailable carotenoids so they could reap the full benefit of carotenoids. This trend could also be observed in vitamin E (tocotrienol) products.”
From a holistic viewpoint, Shades Optical strives to improve vision to the best of its ability, it hopes to prevent future illnesses as well.
“I and the team at my practice, Shades Optical, are committed to always advancing our understanding of how optical wellness is connected to whole body wellness,” Dr. Koppin explained. “Our signature eye exam that we recommend once a year (like a visit to the dentist) optimizes vision and long-term optical wellness. Most of the technology we have at Shades Optical is traditionally only used for specialty patients, extreme optical conditions and when there is a problem. We are utilizing these advanced tools to prevent the problems and ensure our patients are optimizing their lives. My team and I stay on top of many advancements in the ocular health arena, dry eye disease, prevention of whole-body illness such as CIRS—chronic inflammatory response syndrome—otherwise known as mold disease, and more.”
As previously referenced, ExcelVite offers natural tocotrienol/tocopherol, which are often referred to as vitamin E.
“The vitamin E family comprises eight chemically distinct compounds—four tocopherols and four tocotrienols,” See said. “Tocotrienols differ from tocopherols by having an unsaturated side tail which results in significantly different biological activity. EVNol is a mixed-tocotrienol and tocopherol extracted and concentrated from crude red palm oil. Besides alpha-tocopherol, alpha-, beta-, delta- and gamma-tocotrienol, EVNol also contains other phytonutrients such as squalene, phytosterols and traces amount of mixed carotene and CoQ10. Besides conferring benefit in terms of brain health, liver health and cardiovascular, tocotrienols also have the benefit on vision health.”
He continued, “A pilot phase II clinical trial found out eight weeks supplementation of EVNol SupraBio (encapsulated in soft gels branded Tocovid) has resulted in a significant reduction in retinal hemorrhage in the right eye of diabetic retinopathy patients. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the diabetes complications and now is the leading cause of new-onset blindness among individuals aged 20 to 64 years old. The study is now pending for publication.”
However, moving forward, clinical studies ought to become much more numerous.
“Owing to the complex nature of the eye and some of the uncertainty behind what causes macular degeneration, there have been limited clinical studies that have been proven efficacious apart from AREDS,” Molnar concluded. “DFH is looking to focus on macular degeneration, as macular degeneration is believed to be caused by aberrant vascularization of blood vessels behind the retina. Thus, an anti-angiogenic ingredient could help slow this process. Also, lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids, are also useful in the filtering of blue light, which has become a more modern concern with respect to eye health.”
1 Retrieved from www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2016/the-total-audience-report-q1-2016.html on March 14, 2018.
2 A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial of High-Dose Supplementation With Vitamins C and E, Beta Carotene, and Zinc for Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss AREDS Report No. 8. JAMA Ophthalmology. 2001;119(10):1417–1436.
3 Kim, E., Kim, H., Kwon, O., & Chang, N. (2018). Associations between fruits, vegetables, vitamin A, β-carotene and flavonol dietary intake, and age-related macular degeneration in elderly women in Korea: the Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(1),161.
4 WHO Universal Health Plan, 2014 – 2019. Retrieved from www.who.int/blindness/AP2014_19_English.pdf?ua=1 on March 16, 2018.
5 Retrieved from www.persistencemarketresearch.com/market-research/eye-health-products-market.asp on March 16, 2018.
Healthy Take Aways:
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that an estimated 61 million adults in the U.S. are at high risk for serious vision loss.
• Adults in the United States spend on average about 10 hours per day staring at electronic gadgets.
• The Global Market Study on Eye Health Supplements published by Persistent Market Research predicted that the revenue for supplementation for age-related macular degeneration will expand 1.7x by the end of 2024 as compared to that in 2016.
For More Information:
Designs for Health, www.designsforhealth.com
ExcelVite Sdn. Bhd., www.gnosis-bio.com
Shades Optical, www.shadesoptical.com