The nation’s eye health increases – what does this mean for lutein?

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lutein Macular degeneration Amd

The incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the US has shrunk to 6.5 percent, from a level of 9.4 percent 15 years ago, says a new survey.

AMD is a degenerative retinal disease that causes central vision loss and leaves only peripheral vision. The macula is a yellow spot of about five millimeters diameter on the retina. As we age, levels of the pigments in the macula decrease naturally, thereby increasing the risk of AMD. The yellow color is due to the content of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which we derive from the diet.


Despite the fact that approximately 25 to 30 million people worldwide are affected by AMD, awareness of the condition is low, says AMD Alliance International. And as the generation of Baby Boomers gets older, the Alliance expects incidence to be on the rise and triple by 2025.


According to new findings in the Archives of Ophthalmology​, the drop in the incidence in AMD is consistent with other population-based studies.


"The decreasing prevalence of AMD may reflect recent change in the frequency of smoking and other exposures such as diet, physical activity and blood pressure associated with AMD,”​ wrote Ronald Klein, MD, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


“It remains to be seen whether public health programs designed to increase awareness of the relationships of these exposures to AMD in patients at risk and their physicians and eye care providers will continue to result in further decline of the prevalence of AMD in the population,”​ they added.


The results are based on data from the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.




The results of the study have been welcomed by the lutein industry: The US is by far the most developed market for eye health products, partly due to a greater acceptance of dietary supplements, and partly due to higher levels of awareness, according to data from Frost & Sullivan.


Frost & Sullivan placed the US eye health ingredients market at $138m in 2008, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3 per cent from 2008 to 2015. The European market was valued at $43.4m in 2007 with a CAGR of 10.5 per cent from 2007 to 2014.


Lutein, a nutrient found in various foods including green leafy vegetables and egg yolk, has a ten-year history in the dietary supplement market as a nutrient to reduce the risk of AMD.


Lutein supplier Kemin Health has played a key role in educating health care professionals and gauging consumer understanding of the carotenoid. Speaking to, Dr Diane Alexander from Kemin Health said that as a result of its educational approach the eye health doctor community was expressing a lot of interest in the nutritional approach. “And our experience correlated very nicely with the results of this survey,”​ she said.


Indeed, proprietary survey data from Kemin has shown a switch in attitude towards a nutritional approach. Indeed, Heather Richardson, FloraGLO Product Manager for Kemin Health, explained that the most recent data (2009) shows that 97 percent of eye health doctors recommend lutein to their patients.


“The trend in the eye industry is that doctors are starting to incorporate nutrition counseling into their recommendations,”​ added Richardson.


In an interview with at SupplySide West last year, Corey Jansen, product manager with Kemin Health, explained the company’s strategy of engaging health care professionals like eye doctors.


“Our message has been about the science – we want to make sure that doctors out there are aware of the science about lutein, and make sure they understand that there are essential nutrients for the eye, lutein being one of them,”​ said Jansen. To watch the interview with Kemin’s Jensen, please click here​.


OmniActive Health Technologies, suppliers of the Lutemax 2020 ingredient, launched a web-based initiative yesterday to educate consumers and health professionals, with the development of videos and additional marketing collateral materials.


Hiren Doshi, VP of OmniActive Health Technologies, told NutraIngredients-USA that the survey’s results were “quite encouraging”. “Clearly one of the things to happen over the past decade is supplementation with the lutein and other ingredients has increased,”​ said Doshi. “Diets have not improved but supplementation has.”


“Good guess to attribute a lot of the [improvements in AMD incidence] to lutein,” ​said Doshi, “but there is no way to conclude this with the current data.”


And a shrinking incidence in AMD does not represent a shrinking market for lutein, said the OmniActive man. “The lutein market continues to grow, and we are seeing higher doses and increases in fortification,”​ he added. “And there is an interesting new trend where we are also seeing products for younger people. It is also important to note that the benefits of lutein extend beyond AMD,” ​he said.

 Source: Archives of Ophthalmology
 2010, Volume 129, Issue 1, Pages 75-80
 “Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the US Population”
 Authors: R. Klein, C-F. Chou, B.E.K. Klein, X. Zhang, S.M. Meuer, J.B. Saaddine

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