The paper, titled “Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure,”was conducted by a team led by Dr. James Stringham, PhD, from the University of Georgia. The study, published in the journal Foods, investigated how supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin isomers can protect against a growing issue among the general population—the undesirable effects of prolonged exposure to high-energy blue light emitted from digital screens of computers, tablets and smartphones.
Blue light filters
Lutein and zeaxanthin isomers—known as the macular carotenoids—are natural filters of high-energy blue light. High-energy blue light reaches deep into the eye and can harm the macula—the region of the eye responsible for highest visual acuity—by promoting the production of free radicals. Short-term effects can cause eye fatigue while long-term exposure can lead to a progressive loss of visual function.
“The effects of blue light on vision isn’t new. However, 10 years ago we saw a surge in near field technology holding or using devices within arm’s length, resulting in increased complaints around high screen use — neck pain, eye strain and fatigue, headaches,” said Dr. Stringham. “This has led to an opportunity with supplementation—a simple mode of therapy with specific nutrients that have a wealth of benefits as they deposit in the eye. After six months of supplementation we saw significant reduction around 30% in these symptoms and significant improvement in measures of visual performance and protection.”
Improvement across multiple parameters
The paper arose from Stringham’s B.L.U.E. study (Blue Light User Exposure) which was a 6-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled supplementation trial with 48 healthy, young adults with screen time exposure of at least 6 hours daily. Subjects were evaluated at baseline, 3-months and 6-months for MPOD (Macular Pigment Optical Density) and markers of visual performance including contrast sensitivity, photo stress recovery and disability glare. Sleep quality, which is affected by blue light exposure, and physical indicators of excessive screen use were also measured. The results show that supplementing with Lutemax 2020 significantly improved macular pigment optical density, visual performance and indicators of excessive screen use, including eye strain and fatigue and headache frequency. Sleep quality also improved significantly.
Dr. Stringham said that he tries not to go into studies with any sort of expectation. Nevertheless, he said the results were gratifying and in some ways surprising.
“In my conclusions I usually won’t shout from the mountaintops what’s going on. We let the data speak for themselves. As far as the visual performance parameters are concerned, I knew that had a good chance [of panning out] because we’ve shown this before. As for the for the blue light stuff, to be honest I was a little skeptical, but it turned out better than I expected. An almost 34% reduction in headache frequency was very significant,” Dr. Stringham said.
“Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure”
Foods 2017, 6(7), 47; doi:10.3390/foods6070047
Authors: Stringham J, Stringham N, O’Brien K