Of the hundreds of carotenoids found in nature, lutein is perhaps one of the best known, especially for it’s role in eye health. Lutein is abundant in the macula of the eye, the very central portion of the retina responsible for sharp focus. In studies, subjects with the lowest lutein intake have been found to be at the greater risk of developing age related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that results in blurred vision or blindness. Lutein has been shown to filter the especially harmful blue and purple light from the sun that is thought to be responsible for damaging the photoreceptors of the macular.
The structure of astaxanthin is very close to that of lutein and zeaxanthin but has a stronger antioxidant activity and UV-light protection effect. Due to the high concentration of photoreceptor cells, the macular has the greatest potential for damage
by free radicals generated by ultra violet light. Studies have reported a significant protective effect of astaxanthin in preventing damage to the visual system by absorbing light energy and disarming free radicals. Studies suggest that the pigmentation and potent antioxidant properties of astaxanthin make it especially valuable in protection against age related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Bilberry extracts have been used successfully in many clinical and experimental studies for various eye dysfunctions. The active anthocyanoside (anthocyanidin) flavonoids in bilberry extract have eye tonic properties, and scientific investigation points to potential benefits in age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, retinopathy, and glaucoma. Studies show bilberry extract improves circulation to the eyes, and enhances oxygen and energy levels in eye tissue. Additionally, anthocyanosides stabilise collagen (a major factor in maintaining eye integrity) and act as potent antioxidants (free radicals are a major destructive element in eye degeneration).
Ginkgo biloba extract has been shown to increase circulation to the retina and improve visual processes. The potent antioxidant compounds in ginkgo help to protect against free radicals generated by ultra-violet light and are supportive of retinal integrity.
Zinc plays an important role in retinal function and studies support its use in slowing down the rate of vision loss among those with AMD. Zinc deficiency is especially common amongst the elderly population – those most at risk from age related vision loss. In one study, subjects given zinc had significantly less vision loss than subjects in the placebo group. Studies suggest that zinc may be most relevant in ‘dry’ AMD, as opposed to ‘wet’ AMD, where study results have been mixed.
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
Bilberry Berries (25% anthocyanosides) (1)
Glnkgo biloba extract
(24% ginkgoflavoglycosides) (2)
1 – 1 5mg per day
1 – 5mg per day
60 – 1 80mg per day
60 – 1 80mg per day
15 – 30mg per day
As per manufacturer’s instructions
Fruit (especially berries)
Nuts and seeds
Stop Smoking (smoking more than doubles risk of developing AMD)
Limit exposure to UV light (wear sunglasses in bright sunlight)
Limit exposure to environmental toxins and other sources of free radicals
1. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. Concurrent use with Warfarin, anti-platelet medication, insulin and oral hypoglycaemic medication under medical supervision only.
2. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. May decrease the action, of Warfarin. Concurrent use with insulin and oral hypoglycaemic medication under medical supervision only. Do not use with MAOI anti-depressants.
3. May cause nausea on an empty stomach. High doses (>100mg per day) may suppress the immune system. Ensure sufficient copper and iron intake with zinc supplementation.