Seeing Clearly: Vision Care in the Era of Blue Light

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The global vision care market is expected to experience substantial growth in the coming years. According to Persistence Market Research, the eye health supplement market could reach $2.85 billion by the end of 2024 (1). The report indicates that North America will dominate the global market with more than 30% revenue share. Driving the market: “Hectic lifestyles and exposure to toxic materials can adversely impact eyesight,” the authors of the report note. “Growing need to maintain that perfect 20/20 eyesight has spiked the demand for eye health supplements.” They add that eye specialists are “promoting the benefits of regularized consumption of eye health supplements.” Along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet that contains antioxidant-rich foods, supplements can lend a hand in protecting eye health—and all of that is right in your wheelhouse. Here’s what you need to know, and how to make it work for you.

The effects of modern-day living
Lifestyle factors are placing a bigger strain on eyes today than ever before. According to Ceci Snyder, M.S., RD, global product manager at Kemin Human Nutrition & Health, “Eye health is important at all ages due to the prevalence of digital device use and resulting blue light exposure. Blue light helps contribute to sleep cycle regulation, but too much blue light can also be detrimental to eye health. Excessive screen time can also create eye strain and fatigue.” Snyder cites research from Kemin Health showing that two-thirds (66%) of U.S. adults admit to spending too much time on digital devices. “Parents of 6- to 12-year-olds report that a large proportion of their child’s digital use (69%) will likely not change because device use covers both school needs and leisure time,” she adds. “To address the widespread use of digital devices, Americans of all ages are looking for eye health solutions.” Snyder brings up an important point: Digital devices and heavy exposure to blue light are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Neil Levin, CCN, DANLA, senior nutrition education manager at NOW Foods, agrees. “People today use our eyes far differently than earlier generations. We utilize screens more, especially personal devices. These screens emit light, including blue light, that presents challenges to eye health and sleep patterns. We live under artificial light emitting unnatural wavelengths/spectra of colors. And we eat more processed foods, providing less of the protective nutrients for our eyes.” Retailers may want to recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to help customers fill in the nutritional gaps in a less-than-optimal diet. These vital nutrients may help protect against degenerative diseases, including those conditions that affect the eyes.

Indeed, degenerative diseases are getting a boost thanks to the modern lifestyle, according to Trisha Sugarek MacDonald, BS, MS, sr. director of R&D/national educator at Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation. “New research has also shown that chronic exposure to blue light from high tech devices like computer, smartphone and tablet screens is also associated with increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In fact, most people get 6 hours of LED screen exposure daily. AMD is caused by deterioration of the macula, a part of the eye needed for central vision, and is the leading cause of vision loss in individuals over the age of 50.” Sugarek MacDonald suggests wearing sunglasses, eating a diet rich in antioxidants and carotenoids, turning on blue light filters on high-tech devises, and having regular eye exams.

“Getting away from electronic screens, especially before bedtime, and regularly getting a good night’s sleep are essential components of maintaining eye health,” adds Levin. “Some phones have a feature to limit blue light; look for that setting on your cell phone.” If your customers are unaware of this, share this information—protecting the eyes against an onslaught of blue light and other artificial light sources is vital.

Other eye health conditions may be beyond the scope of human actions—hereditary conditions do exist, Snyder points out. That said, she adds, “we can lower our risk for certain eye conditions through maintaining a healthy weight, achieving normal blood pressure and eating vegetables and fruits.” Recommending plant-based foods is something you’re probably used to doing, and this is just another reason to send customers over to your produce section.

A supplement assist
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two biggies in the eye supplement arena—and, according to Levin, with good reason. He explains: “Dr. Stuart Richer at the VA Hospital in North Chicago, Illinois published two papers on lutein related to macular health. The first Lutein Antioxidant Supplement Trial (LAST I) showed that 10 mg of lutein (from 20 mg lutein esters) slowed the reduction of macular density. The second trial showed that the density could be increased with lutein alone and even more so with lutein plus antioxidants. Additional studies, including the influential AREDS studies, showed that dietary supplements could support eye health.”

Additional ingredients in some eye formulas include bilberry, antioxidant vitamins and minerals, and botanical free radical fighters, Levin adds. NOW offers Ocu Support and Clinical Strength Ocu Support, both of which, Levin notes, use lutein with zeaxanthin by FloraGLO, a registered trademark of Kemin Industries. The supplements both include vitamins A, C, and E, which are all antioxidants, and bilberry extract.

While these nutrients can be obtained from foods—generally, colorful veggies, including kale, radishes, and tomatoes—Snyder notes that a supplement will probably be necessary: “The U.S. dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is only 1 to 2 mg per day on average, and recommendations call for 12 mg combined.” Hitting this intake level, she adds, has a second benefit: “Research shows that daily supplementation with 10 mg of FloraGLO Lutein, and the resulting increase in macular pigment optical density, can help increase tolerance to the intensity of glaring light and improve eye recovery time following bright light.” If, in other words, you have older customers who have trouble driving at night because the headlights of oncoming traffic are blinding—a lutein supplement may help.

Make sure that, whichever supplements you stock, they’re based on science. Sugarek MacDonald notes that Bluebonnet’s Targeted Choice EyeCare Vegetable Capsules are formulated with the same nutrients used in the AREDS 2 study—vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin. EyeCare has hyaluronic acid and bilberry, too, to help the eyes get extra nutrients necessary to protect them from the stress of blue light and pollution.

For kids who get a little too much blue light exposure—especially as school is starting—consider stocking Twinlab’s Blutein Gummies. Made with Lutemax2020, a trademarked
ingredient from OmniActive Health Technologies, each gummy contains 10mg of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin. The gummies are vegan, gluten-free, and free of corn syrup. Gene Bruno, director of product innovation at Twinlab, relates that “We had fun sharing the Kid’s Gummies with the children of our staff here at the Twinlab corporate office on Boca Raton, FL. The most common question the children asked after trying their first gummy: ‘Can I have another one?!’”

Strategies for sales success
Bruno recommends some serious cross-merchandising. “Research has demonstrated that Lutemax2020 supplementation helped subjects maintain a lower psychological stress profile, improve sleep quality, and improve skin elasticity and general condition. Consequentially, cross-merchandising Lutemax2020 products like Twinlab Blutein Gummies in the stress, sleep, and beauty sections of the store makes good sense.” It might also spark questions—and opportunities to educate your customers on eye health, antioxidants, and the perks of a holistic approach to health.

Snyder suggests a wider strategy: “Retailers that communicate the connection between macular pigment optical density, which can be measured non-invasively, and lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation can help their customers understand their lutein/zeaxanthin status. The idea of measuring macular pigment optical density can also help drive repeated sales.” An offer for manufacturers: “Kemin can help eye health brands with the science and tools to educate their end customer about lutein, whether in store or on websites.” WF

 

Note: This article has been edited from the original post and the print edition due to information on qualified health claims for lutein and zeaxanthin. For information on qualified health claims, visit www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/qualified-health-claims.

References

  1. “Eye Health Supplements Market to Reach US$ 2.85 Bn by 2024,” Persistence Market Research. Posted 3/14/17. Accessed 8/1/19. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/eye-health-supplements-market-to-reach-us-285-bn-by-2024—persistence-market-research-616113893.html
  2. “Vision Care Market – Global Outlook and Forecast 2019-2024,” Research and Markets. Posted 3/19. Accessed 8/1/19. https://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/bt4gmh/global_74_bn?w=5
  3. Makayla Meixner, “The 9 Most Important Vitamins for Eye Health,” Healthline. Posted 7/25/18. Accessed 8/1/19. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eye-vitamins#section7

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