Roberts adds that the increase in MPOD “correlated with a reduction in glare disability and photostress recovery time.” This means persons supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin could discriminate between objects more readily under glaring-light situations while simultaneously exhibiting more rapid recovery following exposure to bright light sources, such as sunlight or bright headlights.
“Although similar effects have been shown in early-stage AMD patients and people with cataracts, this study is the first to show these effects in younger, healthy subjects,” Roberts says. “Given the importance accuracy of vision plays, especially while driving during a bright day or at night exposed to bright headlight glare, these data continue to support the health benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin in our daily diet throughout everyone's lifetime.”
New ingredients for eye health
Only recently a form of zeaxanthin called meso-zeaxanthin has been identified in close association with lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye. The compound appears to be rare in nature and is thought to be produced in the eye by conversion of lutein. It shows significant promise as a new eye health ingredient, but more research is needed and it currently only is included in supplements.
Astaxanthin could prove one of the up and coming ingredients for eye health. It's a potent antioxidant, recognized to be about 500 times more effective than vitamin E and much more powerful than other carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene.
Algatechnologies grows microalgae that make astaxanthine. When exposed to high-intensity light, the microalgae produce astaxanthin as a protective agent.
"There is substantial evidence astaxanthin may help keep vision sharper and keep eyes healthier when they are exposed to the damaging UV rays in everyday sunshine," says Efrat Kat, marketing manager for Algatechnologies Ltd. (www.algatech.com), Hevel Eilot, Israel.
Astaxanthin seems to target eye tissues particularly well. "Any compound functioning in the eye must be able to cross not only the blood-brain barrier but also the blood-retinal barrier to gain access into the eye," explains Kat. "Among all antioxidants -- and specifically carotenoids -- astaxanthin appears to easily penetrate these two barriers, thanks to its low molecular weight and its specific chemical structure."
Kat cites a double-blind study performed in Japan wherein, after four weeks of supplementation with a daily dose of 5mg astaxanthin, researchers reported a 46 percent reduction in the number of subjects complaining of eyestrain. "Researchers also found positive effects at 4mg astaxanthin per day in relieving eye fatigue," adds Kat.
Algatechnologies supplies AstaPure natural astaxanthin. The compound is derived from Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae. The microalgae, when exposed to high-intensity light, produce astaxanthin as a protective agent. Algatechnologies uses a patented, closed and environmentally protected cultivation system, which allows the production of a pure astaxanthin product free of any biological or chemical contamination.
AstaPure currently is approved for use as a dietary supplement and for cosmetics in the U.S. In Japan it is approved for food and beverages, and it just received European Union Novel Foods approval in July this year. Algatechnologies is seeking to expand regulatory approvals for AstaPure to allow its use in food and beverages in the U.S.
The AstaPure line includes a 10 percent astaxanthin oleoresin extracted using super-critical CO2 extraction technology; gelatin-free vegetarian 2.5 percent astaxanthin beadlets; and cold water dispersible beadlets.
From micro to macro
Some of the best sources of anthocyanins and carotenoids are macroingredients. Blueberries and other red, purple and orange fruits and vegetables have a long historic connection to eye health.
Two examples considered new only by their recent trendiness are goji berries and açai. Bilberries, considered a folk cure for poor night vision in Europe for years, also are catching the eye of processors in the EU and Asia for eye health-targeted products.
As stars of the recent superfruit explosion, goji berries and açai have been recognized for their health benefits as protectors against cancer and heart disease. Now, with formidable concentrations of anthocyanins and carotenoids, they’re enjoying attention for their eye health benefits as well. Look for all the goji- and açai-containing cereals, bars and beverages that have been popping up to start including vision health as marketed benefit soon.
Zinc, selenium and omega-3s also are showing promise in research for eye health. Also, there are a number of other known nutraceuticals enjoying re-examination for protective qualities regarding vision and aging of eyes. Processors will find it worth keeping a sharp eye on this trend in the coming years.