Approximately 3 billion people worldwide play video games and about 74% of households in the U.S. have at least one family member who plays video games (1). Furthermore, roughly 76% of Americans under 18 and 67% of adults play games, while 7% of people older than 65 play video games.
With the increasing popularity of video gaming, it’s no surprise that gamers have become more competitive. This has led to “eSports” (i.e., electronic sports), a form of competition using video games (2). Taking the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, by the late 2000s live streaming saw a large surge in popularity in eSports through spectatorship of professional gamers (3,4). Then, in October of 2017, the International Olympic Committee lent legitimacy to video gaming by acknowledging the growing popularity of eSports, concluding that competitive eSports could be considered as a sporting activity (5).
The dietary supplement opportunity
In consideration of the rise of eSports, not to mention the sporting desire to achieve your personal best in the game of your choice, this all presents an opportunity to develop dietary supplement formulas for gamers. The goal of such formulations would likely be to improve gamers’ concentration, endurance, accuracy, decision making, and reaction time—as well as providing them with protection against harmful blue light (more on this later). So now, let’s look at those nutraceuticals that have been studied in human clinical research for these purposes.
Inositol-enhanced arginine silicate
A double-blind placebo-controlled study (6) examined the effect of an inositol-enhanced arginine silicate oral supplement (nooLVL, 1500 mg + 100 mg of additional inositol) on cognitive performance and energy in eSport gamers. Sixty healthy men and women who spent 5 or more hours a week playing video games were randomly assigned to take the supplement or placebo for 7 days. On day 1 and 7, before and 15 minutes after dosing, subjects completed the following cognitive tests:
- Trail Making Test (TMT) – Measures visual attention and task switching.
- Stroop Test – Measures selective attention capacity and skills, and processing speed.
- Profile of Mood States (POMS) Questionnaire – Measures mood by focusing on tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, vigor-activity, fatigue-inertia, and confusion-bewilderment.
Subjects then played a video game for 60 min. Immediately after, cognitive tests were repeated. Self-reported energy levels increased, anger decreased, and TMT test errors decreased in the supplement group compared to placebo (p < 0.05). Fatigue, TMT score improved in the supplement group compared to baseline (p < 0.05). After 60 min of gaming, supplementation decreased Stroop Test errors and TMT time (p < 0.05). These data appear to support the use of inositol-enhanced arginine silicate in eSport gamers looking to improve their accuracy, decision making, and reaction time during gaming.
Aronia melanocarpa extract
An open label study (7) was conducted to investigate the effects of a proprietary Aronia melanocarpa extract (BrainBerry) on self-assessed cognitive performance and mood in young, healthy female and male amateur gamers. Participants took part in three gaming sessions at the end of which they had to fill out an online questionnaire to rate their perceived gaming skills, mood, and sleep quality. The first gaming session was played without any supplement intake (baseline). On the second trial day the 7-days supplementation began with a daily dose of one Aronia extract effervescent tablet (65 mg Aronia extract 9.17 mg caffeine, 2.9 mcg vitamin B12). The same questionnaire was completed after acute and following 7 days of supplementation. Results were that a significant improvement in perceived eye-hand coordination, focus, energy, concentration and reaction time scores were observed following acute and 7-day ingestion of Aronia extract in comparison to baseline. Differences in perceived multi-tasking ability and happiness scores were also significantly (P < 0.05) increased after 7-day Aronia extract supplementation compared to baseline.
In conclusion, short-term administration of Aronia extract resulted in significant beneficial effects on self-assessed cognitive performance and mood during a video-gaming session. This is the first study to demonstrate acute & short-term improvement in eye-hand coordination, focus, energy, happiness following supplementation with a clinically validated Aronia extract. It should be noted that no negative impact was recorded on quality of sleep, fatigue and anxiety. This data suggests that Aronia extract could be a meaningful addition to any dietary supplement that aims to improve gaming performance in a natural way.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Digital devices, such as video display terminals on computers (monitors), projects a wavelength of light called blue light which penetrate deeply into the eye, and has great potential to damage retinal tissue by inducing free radicals, etc. (8-11). Research indicates that headache, eye fatigue and other indications of eye strain are associated with the daily use of video display terminals on computers and other electronic devices, and are common with 3 or more hours/day of exposure; and such exposure is common. In fact, 30% of adults spend more than half their waking hours (more than 9 hours) using a digital device, 50% of Americans use digital devices more than 5 hours a day, and 70% use two or more digital devices at the same time.
Research (12) has shown that the following values of symptom prevalence were found in women and men, respectively who had extended daily exposure to blue light: eye strain 50.7% and 32.6%, disturbed visual acuity 38.3% and 21.2%, mucosal dryness and eye burning 46.5% and 24.2%. Such visual health related symptoms in adults and children resulting from blue light digital exposure is now referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) (13). Clearly, gamers are at high risk for CVS.
The good news is that supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin isomers can provide substantial protection against blue light damage. These carotenoids are located in the eye—speciﬁcally the macula region of the retina. Because these carotenoids are yellow, they selectively absorb high-energy blue light, effectively protecting the retina region from the light spectrum that can cause tissue damage, and limiting the ability of light to generate free-radical oxygen and inflammation. Essentially, they act as primary filters of high-energy blue light. You might think of them as an internal pair of sunglasses for your eyes.
Multiple studies (14-18) have demonstrated that a specific blend of lutein and zeaxanthin isomers (Lutemax 2020) reduced headaches, eye fatigue and eye strain, improved visual performance and total antioxidant potential, reduced psychological stress and improved sleep quality. Doses used in these studies ranged between 10-20 mg of lutein and 2-4 mg of zeaxanthin.
Video gaming/ eSports has become a prevalent activity amongst Americans, and many gamers may wish to improve concentration, endurance, accuracy, decision making, and reaction time—as well as gain protection against harmful blue light. Supplementation with inositol-enhanced arginine silicate and a proprietary Aronia melanocarpa extract, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, may help gamers to achieve those goals. Dietary supplement brand owners would do well to consider a gaming supplement as a potential addition to their product line.
Related: Naturally Informed Education: E-Sports & Gaming
Nutritional Keys to Mentally Sharper & Stress-Free!
- Gaming Statistics. TrueList. 5/24/22. Retrieved June 22, 2022 from https://truelist.co/blog/gaming-statistics/#:~:text=Over%20227%20million%20people%20in,than%2065%20play%20video%20games.
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- Ben Popper (30 September 2013). “Field of Streams: How Twitch Made Video Games a Spectator Sport”. The Verge. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
- Grohmann, Karolos (28 October 2017). “E-sports just got closer to being part of the Olympics”. Reuters. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
- Tartar JL, Kalman D, Hewlings S. A Prospective Study Evaluating the Effects of a Nutritional Supplement Intervention on Cognition, Mood States, and Mental Performance in Video Gamers. Nutrients. 2019 Oct; 11(10): 2326.
- Proprietary Aronia berry extract improves acute and short-term gaming performance in a young, healthy gamer population: study report. BioActor B.V. Brightlands Health Campus Gaetano Martinolaan 85, 6229GS Maastricht, Netherlands. Unpublished. March 29, 2021: 19 pgs.
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- Wu J, Seregard S, Algvere PV. Photochemical damage of the retina. Surv Ophthalmol. 2006 Sep-Oct;51(5):461-81.
- Algvere PV, Marshall J, Seregard S. Age-related maculopathy and the impact of blue light hazard. Acta Ophthalmol Scand. 2006 Feb;84(1):4-15.
- Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). 2012. Health Effects of Artificial Light. Accessed from http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/emerging/docs/scenihr_o_035.pdf.
- Kowalska M, Zejda JE, Bugajska J, Braczkowska B, Brozek G, Malińska M. [Eye symptoms in office employees working at computer stations]. [Article in Polish] Med Pr. 2011;62(1):1-8.
- Akinbinu TR, Mashalla YJ. Impact of computer technology on health: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Medical Practice and Review. 2014;5(3):20-30.
- Stringham JM, O’Brien KJ, Stringham NT. Macular carotenoid supplementation improves disability glare performance and dynamics of photostress recovery. Eye Vis (Lond). 2016 Nov 11;3:30.
- Stringham NT, Holmes PV, Stringham JM. Supplementation with macular carotenoids reduces psychological stress, serum cortisol, and sub-optimal symptoms of physical and emotional health in young adults. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Feb 15:1-11.
- Contrast sensitivity – Accepted (IOVS) in press
- Stringham J. Effects of three levels of lutein supplementation on macular pigment optical density, psychological stress levels, and overall health. Nutritional Neuroscience Laboratory, University of Georgia. Unpublished. 2016:17 pgs.
- Stringham JM et al. Short-term macular carotenois supplementation improves overall sleep quality. ARVO 2016 Annual Meeting Abstracts