Health Hotline Magazine | April 2023

From Eye Strain to Macular Degeneration, Lutein Blocks the Deleterious Effects of Excessive Blue Light Exposure Blue light is among the shortest high-energy wavelengths in the visible light spectrum; LED, fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting, computer screens, TVs, smartphones, and other smart devices all emit blue light. Over-exposure to blue light can cause eye strain (symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, eye fatigue, etc.) and can cause damage to eye tissue, including the retina and macula, by increasing oxidative stress, leading to mitochondrial and DNA damage. Overtime, over exposure to blue light can contribute to the development of dry eye disease, cataracts, glaucoma, and even the development or worsening of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Over-exposure can also lead to poor quality sleep (this is why you always hear to avoid using your smart devices close to bedtime). According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average American (including children and teens) spend about 7.5 hours each day on blue light-emitting screens. It should also be noted that because the eyes’ filtering system isn’t fully functional in children and adolescents, their retinas are exposed to more blue light, which means that there is a greater potential for damage. Dubbed “the eye vitamin,” lutein belongs to the carotenoid family of plant pigments that give yellow, red, and orange plants their rich color. It’s also the main pigment that makes up the macular pigment of our eyes. The macular pigment protects cells in the macula from the potentially harmful e ects of high-energy blue light and lutein has been shown to have protective e ects in the eye by increasing the density of macular pigment. Studies have shown that having a thicker macular pigment, known as macular pigment optical density, or MPOD, reduces the frequency of digital eye strain as well as improves overall visual function. One recent study investigated lutein’s e ect on eye strain and sleep quality in 48 healthy young adults with at least six hours of daily screen-time exposure. Screen time and sleep quality were assessed via questionnaire andMPOD was also assessed. Twenty-four mg of supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin daily yielded significant improvement inMPOD and improved symptoms of eye strain, including headache frequency, eye fatigue, blurred vision, watery eyes, and sensitivity to light. They also found improvement in all visual performance measures, versus placebo. Additionally, sleep quality improved in those taking lutein. The study found that “IncreasedMPOD significantly improves visual performance and, in turn, improves several undesirable physical outcomes associated with excessive screen time.” There is also evidence that people with thicker macular pigment have a significantly lower risk of developing AMD (82% lower risk) compared to people with thin macular pigment, and that supplementation with 10 mg lutein + 2 mg zeaxanthin (another carotenoid that naturally occurs with lutein) can reduce the risk and slow the progression of AMD. A recent meta-analysis investigating the e ects of lutein supplementation on MPOD in patients with AMD found that lutein supplementation at 10 or 20 mg daily was associated with an increase in MPOD, visual acuity, the ability to see details at a distance, and contrast sensitivity, the ability to see sharp and clear outlines of small objects. The higher dose increased MPOD in a shorter amount of time. 34 | Health Hotline ®

Lutein Is a Critical Nutrient for Brains of All Ages

Lutein is the dominant carotenoid found in the human brain and is critical for normal brain and eye development in fetuses. In fact, research has found that lutein concentrations increase by 41 percent from the first to third trimester of pregnancy and remain elevated after delivery—two critical periods of retina and brain development. Studies show that lutein is concentrated in neural tissues important for learning and memory and indicate that lutein may be related to brain volume regulation during development, neurotransmission, the development of neurons, and neuroprotection during fetal development. A recent study found that higher lutein intakes by the mother during pregnancy were associated with better verbal intelligence, behavioral regulation ability, and better social-emotional development in mid-childhood. Lutein is delivered to the fetus via the placenta and through breastmilk after birth. But a study of breast milk from nine countries showed that women in the United States had lower levels of lutein in their breastmilk, leading the researchers to write, “because placental and breast milk lutein are dependent on maternal consumption, which is low in the United States, understanding the impact of lutein supplementation and the e ects on the mother and infant is important.”

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