Eye Health: The Right Nutrients

Do you treat your 5 senses equally?

Humans have 5 basic senses - sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Of all these senses, the eyes are the most important because if other senses such as taste and smell stop working, the sight will provide the best protection against danger. Ageing can lead to vision changes and increases the risk of developing some of the most common eye problems such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract and diabetic retinopathy. These eye problems are the leading causes of visual impairments and possibly blindness among the elderly.

Eye aging can be accelerated with the excessive usage of digital screens or long exposure of strong lights.

“Blue Light” – a short and High Energy Visible (HEV) wavelength - from sunlight and digital devices is one of the causes leading to these eye conditions. Continuous exposure to “Blue Light” is unavoidable in a tropical country as well as in the current digital screen technology evolution. The eyes are not able to block or reflect “Blue Light” and this light can pass through the cornea and eye lenses to reach the retina. The eye’s retina can be damaged, contributing to AMD and subsequently leads to loss of vision.

Diabetes and high blood pressure have also been found to be associated with these age-related eye diseases. Constant high sugar level in the blood and high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the retina. The damaged blood vessels around the retina can leak fluid, protein and fats, forming deposits that will subsequently affect vision. These damaged blood vessels are also not effective in carrying oxygen to the retina. New blood vessels may form on the surface of the retina to compensate for the compromised blood circulation in the retina. These new blood vessels are fragile and can bleed into the back of the eye, causing scarring or dangerously increase the pressure inside the eye and threaten the eyesight.

Patients with high blood pressure and diabetes have higher risk to develop retinopathy, the aging eye disease with damaged blood vessels in the eye which eventually lead to blindness.

The Eye Nutrients - Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Nutrition can be one of the promising ways to prevent or delay the progression of these diseases. Many studies have shown that two very important nutrients that may help to reduce the risks of these eye diseases and benefit the eye health are lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that act as the internal sunglasses in the eyes to filter harmful high energy blue wavelengths emitted from the sun or digital devices. A recent study also demonstrated the value of lutein and zeaxanthin in reducing the risk of cataract formation. Being the antioxidant nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidation of the lens, which is a major cause of cataract.

Unfortunately, the human body is not able to synthesize lutein and zeaxanthin it needs naturally. It is only through diet or nutritional supplements that the body is able to get sufficient daily amount of these nutrients to support good eye health. Although there is no recommendation on the daily intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, many recent studies have shown the health benefits in taking 10 mg per day and 2mg per day of lutein and zeaxanthin respectively. This 10:2 ratio of lutein to zeaxanthin is also supported by AREDS II (Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2) that studies the nutrients that can reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Lutein and Zeaxanthin, found abundantly in Marigold flower has been proven to be beneficial in maintaining healthy eyes especially the Macula.

In addition, bilberry, one of the widely studied super food has long been recognized for its potential as a vision enhancer. It contains anthocynosides, which are potent antioxidants that are beneficial in enhancing vision performance. Bilberry compounds nourish the retina through their antioxidant properties. They protect the retina from free radicals that can cause damage to the eye structures and lead to eye problems such as cataract and AMD. Apart from its antioxidant role, bilberry is believed to increase the production of rhodopsin in the eyes, a compound that plays a role in improving night vision and aid vision adaptations to changes in light.

Bilberry also supports the integrity of the blood vessels that supply the eyes with oxygen and essential nutrients. It keeps the blood vessels healthy and flexible which benefits the elderly, diabetics and those with high blood pressure who are at higher risks of developing glaucoma and retinopathy. Bilberry may also prevent the formation of weak, fragile blood vessels that are strongly linked to retinopathy.

European bilberry is of higher grade in quality and less risk of adulteration that gives the health benefit it has to offer.

Not all Lutein and Zeaxanthin the same

There are a number of challenges when it comes to formulating lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin were found to be hard to absorbed and usually they are not extracted from the same source. XanMax® is an innovative formulation of lutein and zeaxanthin extracted from the same carefully selected Marigold flowers. With this technology XanMax® is highly absorbed and stays in the retina for 24 hours, thus providing a whole day protection with just one capsule. XanMax® also follows the 10:2 clinical ratio of lutein and zeaxanthin based on AREDS II studies, which has shown benefits in eye health.

Getting a good quality bilberry is equally important. There is adulterated bilberry which is cheap in price and lacking in quality and effectiveness. Some of this bilberry is mixed with amaranth dye, a dark purple synthetic dye and active compounds from fruits other than bilberry. Even though this ‘bilberry’ also gives antioxidant activity, it is not the same as those from European bilberry, which gives unique benefits to eye health.

Apart from having the right nutrition to protect the eyes, it is also important to ensure good control of blood sugar and blood pressure level. This will reduce the risk of developing eye diseases that eventually lead to visual impairment. Wearing sunglasses during a sunny day will also help to filter both UV and blue light from the sun. Another important step to take care of the eyes is to avoid prolonged usage of digital devices especially in the dark. Take care of your vision as it is your window to the world. Give it the 24 hours protection it deserves.

This health information is brought to you by the panel pharmacists of Cambert (M) Sdn Bhd.

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