Eye Health

A New Fish Oil + Lutein for Kids to Protect the Eyes from Electronic Devices

We’ve written about fish oil many times before, especially on how great it is for kids.

I’ve read a few new studies lately that have made me want to highlight it again, plus we’ve just found a new fish oil for kids by Barleans that has added lutein, which is the first kid’s product I’ve ever seen combining the two nutrients.

The benefits of omega 3 fish oil for kids are many, with a whole list of researched and documented benefits including better performance at school- especially reading scores, better impulse control and behavior, and even a new study that reported that kids who took omega 3 fish oil slept better at night than those who didn’t.

In addition, supplementation of omega 3 fish oil for kids is especially important since omega 3s must be obtained either through diet or supplements since the body cannot make the nutrient itself. Many adults eat fatty fish multiple times a week, but it’s extremely rare for that to be the case with kids (and if you’re the rare person whose child is eating salmon four times a week, I definitely commend you!), so in most cases, supplementation of omega 3 fish oil is necessary.

Fish oil as a kid’s supplement is something that has been around for many years, but the fantastic addition of lutein can really make a difference in kid’s health.

Many adults take lutein to protect and preserve their vision, but new research is highlighting the importance of lutein  (a nutrient related to vitamin A) to protect children’s eyesight against strain and damage from exposure to blue light from electronic devices like phones and tablets.

Research suggests that continued exposure to blue light from electronic devices can lead to damage in the cells in the retina, damage that is most often manifests over the years as macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is something usually seen in older adults, and is the leading cause of vision loss as we age. Scientists are now speculating that the ubiquitous use of electronic devices among children (now starting at younger and younger ages) may, as time passes, cause vision problems earlier than ever seen before.

This unique new kid’s fish oil and lutein combination we’re recommending by Barleans is called Omega Pals Hooty Fruity Tangerine Fish Oil + Eye Nutrition, which is kind of a mouthful. It combines not only omega 3 fish oil with lutein, but also has added zeaxanthin and astaxanthin, two other eye nutrients that work with lutein to further protect the eyes- particularly the retina and the macula, the two parts of the eye crucial to sharp, clear vision where damage is most often seen over time.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that these kid’s fish oils by Barleans are absolutely delicious. Most parents laugh at the idea of trying to get their kids to take liquid fish oil, but Barleans has found a way to make a flavored fish oil that is not at all fishy tasting, but also one that is made in a way that keeps it from being oily- it’s more of a creamy or custardy consistency, with a nice orange flavor. I have given my daughter the kid’s liquid fish oils from Barleans since she was about two years old, and she absolutely loves the taste. I even have a picture from years ago, when she was in her highchair and had somehow gotten a hold of the Barleans liquid fish oil I had on the table (it was a lemon cream flavor that they had at the time), and she  had grabbed the bottle and was literally pouring it into her mouth since she liked the taste so much!

The nice thing is that there is no downside to supplementation with lutein and eye supplements for kids, only benefits. There is no conclusive proof that has shown that years of exposure to electronic devices, beginning in childhood, will absolutely cause eye damage and degeneration. That’s because this has never happened before. Children growing up now are the first generation to be exposed to electronic devices practically since birth. The light now coming from computers, phones, and tablets is something different than any of us grew up with.

If thirty or forty years from now all those kids who were using electronic devices so much as kids grow up to have perfect eyes, well that would be wonderful, but the possible (and exceedingly likely) alternative- an entire generation of adults who will grow up to have vision problems like macular degeneration, appearing earlier and younger than ever before, is something to be prevented if at all possible.

Macular degeneration, as many adults know, is something that cannot be treated. There is no way to reverse it, but it can be prevented or slowed by proper nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin which help to protect the eyes against damage.

This new product by Barleans containing both fish oil and eye supplements for kids is something that can make a real difference for kids, both for their health now as well as eye health long term.

Stop by the store for more information and so we can help you further!

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Barlean’s Omega Pals Hooty Fruity Tangerine Fish Oil + Eye Nutrition:

  • For children ages 1 year+

  • Made with Barlean’s ultra-purified, Fresh Catch® fish oil

  • Contains Lutemax 2020® Lutein & Zeaxanthin plus Astaxanthin to protect eyes from digital device use*

  • 500mg Omega-3 EPA & DHA per serving

  • Sweet taste and creamy texture

  • Emulsified for 3X better absorption

  • Non-GMO, gluten Free, sugar free, dairy free

  • No artificial flavors or colors

  • No fish burps!


Jarrow's New Macula Protective Factors: There is Literally Not a Better Eye Supplement

Jarrow Formulas has just developed a new eye formula that is one of the only products on the market today to contain meso-zeaxanthin, a unique form of zeaxanthin (a carotenoid- a nutrient related to vitamin A) that is particularly beneficial to eye health. The new formula called Macula Protective Factors, and we’re very excited to have it in the store.

Meso-zeaxanthin helps to increase pigment density in the center of the macula, which almost works like natural protective sunglasses in the eye.

Lutein is probably the best known eye supplement. Part of how lutein protects the eye is by increasing pigment density in the eye, though research has discovered that lutein primarily works on the periphery or outer side of the macula, whereas meso-zeaxanthin works in the center of the macula- where the most damage is done to our eyes. Meso-zeaxanthin has documented benefits not found in other forms of zeaxanthin or other eye supplements.

Meso-zeaxanthin is not found in foods, and while supplements where simply “zeaxanthin” is listed on the label may possibly contain some percentage of meso-zeaxanthin, there is no way of knowing exactly how much.

Interestingly, when we first received a prototype of this new supplement by Jarrow, Margot (who works at the store) started taking it and brought it to show to her eye doctor. When he saw the ingredients, specifically that it contained the rare form of meso-xeaxanthin, he was extremely excited and wanted more information about the supplement, since he knew the benefits of meso-xeaxanthin, but said it was usually hard to find.

Part of the uniqueness of meso-xeaxanthin is that unlike regular zeaxanthin supplements or other eye nutrients, it is able to cross the blood/retina barrier, and as such, is able to directly benefit and protect the eyes from damage. In studies, supplementation with meso-xeaxanthin led to the largest increases in macular pigment densities, which is the first defense for the eyes against radiation and the damaging blue light emitted from electronic devices.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for people aged 60 and older. It is an irreversible destruction of the macula, which leads to a loss of detailed “straight ahead” vision needed for reading, driving, and other daily activities. Unfortunately, nothing yet has been found to restore damage to the macula, so protecting the eyes and mitigating damage is paramount.

Increasing macular pigment density helps to prevent age related macular degeneration, and the specific form of meso-zeaxanthin has been conclusively shown to increase that pigment density, especially in the center of the eye. Increasing macular pigment in the eye helps to naturally absorb damaging UV and blue light, reducing oxidative stress on the eye. Meso-zeaxanthin helps to neutralize the reactive, oxidative free radicals created by exposure to UV and blue light.

The amount of macular pigments we naturally have decreases with age, which in turn gives our eyes less protection as the years go by. Also, people with light eyes naturally have less pigment density in their eyes, and because of that, their eyes are less effective at absorbing environmental radiation and protecting the retina.

Without hesitation, we would say that this new Macula Protective Factors by Jarrow is hands down the best eye supplement we have ever seen. It’s an exciting new advancement that I’m really happy to be able to share. In addition to containing the amazing meso-zeaxanthin, this new formula also contains lutein plus astaxanthin, a broad spectrum antioxidant that is active in the eyes (not all antioxidants are).

Eye health, and preventing the degradation of the eyes that nearly all of us will experience with time, is extremely important and directly affects one’s daily life and standard of living. In the past, most people would only begin to start thinking about eye health around retirement age, but new research is showing how eye nutrients can be beneficial and protective to people of all ages, even children and teenagers, who are exposed to damaging blue light from electronic devices and screens more now than ever before.

We will be offering Jarrow’s new Macula Protective Factors on sale at Pass Health Foods through the month of September for 25% off, so it’s a great time to try it.

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Protecting the Eyes from Blue Light from Electronic Devices

Q: I work in an office, and am on my computer the majority of the work day. My coworker has been talking about the blue light emitted by computers and other electronic devices and how it’s so damaging to the eyes (he even has special “computer glasses” to prevent damage). I’m wondering if this blue light is really as big of a deal as he seems to think it is, and what, if anything can be done to prevent that damage (I’d prefer to not wear the glasses though, since it’s not a great look). Any recommendations?

A: Research on the effects of blue light and its long term effect on the eyes is still in early stages, but it is definitely something to be aware of. In the past, most warnings on light damage to the eyes focused on UV light from the sun, which has been conclusively shown to cause damage to the eyes, which is the reason why optometrists and ophthalmologists for many years have stressed the importance of wearing sunglasses outside.

Blue light wavelengths are part of sunlight, but are also emitted by computer screens and electronic devices like smartphones and tablets. In just the past several years, the average person’s blue light exposure from electronics has increased exponentially, from over six hours a day for most children, nine hours for teenagers, and ten hours for the average adult. 

The most common complaints caused by this “Computer Vision Syndrome” are headaches, eye strain, and trouble focusing. Beyond those acute complaints, blue light has also been speculated to be the cause of even more severe problems over time, including an increase in age related macular degeneration and vision loss, since blue light penetrates even more deeply into the eye than UV light. Its cumulative effects may be even more of a problem over time than UV radiation.

In the past, thinking about eye health was often something that one would begin to worry about towards the end of middle age, but with the increase in screen usage, supplements for eye health would be of benefits for people of all ages, since it’s significantly easier to prevent a health problem than to try to reverse one.

Two nutrients which are absolutely crucial for preventing vision problems and maintaining proper eye health are the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in leafy green vegetables and orange and red fruits and vegetables. These protective nutrients are found in the eye, but are not produced by the body, so it’s necessary to get them through foods and supplements. Lutein is present in more foods than zeaxanthin, which is found only in extremely small amounts, which makes supplementation a good idea even for people with a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. The average American’s dietary intake of lutein is less than 2 milligrams, and the average daily intake of zeaxanthin is less than .5 milligrams, amounts that fall very short of the recommended doses found to be beneficial in scientific research.

Lutein has long been recognized for its benefit to eye health and preventing macular degeneration, though zeaxanthin is only recently becoming more well known. One of the ways zeaxanthin protects the eye from damage is by working to absorb destructive blue light; it also helps to protect the cells of the eye from harmful free radical damage, which reduces oxidative damage in the body and the eyes specifically. Lutein and zeaxanthin work almost like internal sunglasses against blue light and eye damage.

There are many eye supplements on the market, even at regular grocery stores, but let me emphatically say that they are not created equal. What it comes down to are ingredients and potency, which vary widely between products (which truly is the case with all supplements). All sorts of supplements can advertise how great they are, but if the nutrients they contain are not at a therapeutic level, or at the levels found to be effective in scientific research, they aren’t helping (or at least not to the level that they could be). 

I can’t even tell you how frequently a person will bring me in a bottle to the health food store of a supplement they’ve been taking, but when we look at the actual amount of ingredients it contains per pill, it falls short of the necessary effective dose. If you’re going to take a pill, you may as well take one that’s going to have amounts that really make a difference. There are many cases in which people are taking supplements that while they may be “better than nothing”; they are not in a dosage that is likely to produce the effects they are hoping for.

We have been searching for a supplement that had a nice high dose of lutein, as well as a good amount of zeaxanthin in one pill (zeaxanthin is difficult to find in higher amounts in supplements), and have finally found one that we would recommend by NOW Foods, a local company based in Bloomington, Illinois that contains 25 milligrams of lutein and 5 milligrams of zeaxanthin in one pill- a 5:1 ratio in the amounts shown to be of maximum effectiveness in protecting eyes against blue light damage as well as preventing macular degeneration and other degenerative vision issues.

Research has shown that lutein and zeaxanthin works best in a 5:1 ratio of lutein to zeaxanthin. In one recent placebo controlled study, researchers found that lutein and zeaxanthin, in a high dose formula, increased visual acuity and increased the macular pigment in the eyes- macular pigments work as filters against blue light damage to the retina.

The study found that taking 20 milligrams of lutein and 4 milligrams of zeaxanthin increased contrast sensitivity (an important measure of visual function in situations of low light or glare) and improved eye function, including the time it took for eyes to respond to changes in lighting from bright lights to baseline. 

Another study focused on lutein and zeaxanthin, in the same 5:1 ratio, on blue light and sleep. The participants who took the combination of lutein and zeaxanthin were found to have improved sleep quality after using electronic devices compared to the placebo. The researchers speculated that it was due to the lutein and zeaxanthin’s ability to absorb more blue light, which would otherwise disrupt the natural sleep cycle, signaling the body to stay awake. 

As to the question of blue blocking computer or “gaming glasses”, I am somewhat skeptical. Consumer Reports tested a group of blue light computer glasses and found that while the orange tinted varieties were most effective, while light yellow or clear lenses were significantly less effective. Personally, while I care about eye health, I’m not going to be going around wearing eyeglasses with orange lenses. 

There are also free apps available for iPhone and android which are said to help block the blue light on mobile devices; again, I think their effectiveness is far from conclusive, but I’ve started using one that has a timer where you can set it to go on at night (since blue light in the evenings has been shown to interfere with proper sleep patterns), and I figure it can’t hurt. Search “blue light filter” at the appstores to find one that will work on your device.
 

Healthy Q & A: Protecting Eyes Against Vision Loss

Q: I take care of my mom who has lost a lot of her eyesight from macular degeneration.  It’s terrible what she goes through, and I wanted to write to ask if there was anything that I could do to prevent the same thing happening to me.

A: Macular degeneration is the physical breakdown of the part of the eye responsible for detailed, central vision called the macula.  Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans who are age 65 and older.  The damage to the eye’s macula is caused by oxidation and free radicals which are a natural part of aging.   Damage from sunlight also plays a large factor, as well as other risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The first line of defense is to protect your eyes from damage in the first place.  The sun’s UV rays have cumulative harmful effects on the eyes, especially people with light colored eyes, who are at a greater risk of macular degeneration.  Wearing sunglasses is an easy way to prevent eye damage from the sun.  People often wear sunglasses during the summer months, but don’t think of it when the weather turns colder.  Sunglasses are as important, if not more so, during winter months when the glare from snow intensifies the sun’s brightness. Sunglasses are necessary on cloudy days as well, since UV rays filter through the clouds.

When buying sunglasses, make sure they say that they protect against UVA and UVB rays. Most people know that it’s important to wear sunglasses but often forget to actually put them on.  Having several pairs helps with this- keeping a pair in your purse and one in each car so you always have a pair handy is a great idea.  There are also sunglasses that are made to go over glasses (if you’re a person who wears glasses instead of contacts) and there are many new and stylish options available in most drug stores.

Next to preventing sun damage in the eyes, the greatest weapon available to fight against macular degeneration is antioxidants.  The most important antioxidants for eye health is lutein, a supplement that’s related to vitamin A.  Lutein has been the subject of countless studies showing its benefit to eye health and preventing vision loss.  Amazingly, lutein has been found in studies not only to prevent macular degeneration, but to help with improving vision in people suffering from age related macular degeneration (or AMD).  In one study, conducted at the Medical Center Eye Clinic in North Chicago, patients with AMD were given 10 mg of lutein or placebo for 12 months found that the group who took lutein had improved visual function.  In another study, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, patients with cataracts and AMD were given 15 mg of lutein along with a small amount of vitamin E. Cataracts patients were measured for visual acuity, glare sensitivity, and contrast sensitivity, while AMD patients were tested for visual acuity.  At the end of the study, cataracts patients improved by 40-50 percent and the AMD patients exhibited stabilized or improved vision. None of the patients experienced side effects and all reported improved vision.

One important thing to mention when looking for a lutein supplement is making sure it’s a high enough dose.  At grocery stores, the eye supplement that is the number one seller in America only has 2 mg of lutein.  While 2 mg of lutein certainly won’t hurt to take, all the studies I’ve read talk about taking at least 10 milligrams of lutein per day.  There are lots of supplements sold today that have the same problem, a product may be well known because of advertizing, but often the ingredients that are in them aren’t high enough to be a therapeutic dose.  If you’re taking a supplement, don’t you want to make sure there are enough of the beneficial ingredients to really make a difference?

With eye health (and every other part of health) an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. If you haven’t yet experienced the beginnings of degenerative eye problems like AMD, first be thankful, and second, make a point to reduce your risk factors- wearing sunglasses and taking a high antioxidant multivitamin can make a big difference.  Healthy eating with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can make a significant difference as well.  We truly are what we eat, and it’s important to give the body good fuel to make new cells and prevent disease.  Finally, make sure to see the eye doctor every year for a check-up, since it’s much easier to address a problem when it’s just beginning than when you've actually started to notice a worsening in your vision.

These are a few of our favorite things... Lutein

This month we’re featuring Joanne (our other owner) and her favorite supplement, Jarrow’s Lutein.   She takes it to protect her vision.  Joanne doesn’t yet have a problem with her eyesight, but says, “They’re the only eyes I have, and I want to protect them”.

Jarrow’s formula is special since it combines 20mg. of lutein with 1 mg. of zeaxanthan.  Both are antioxidants related to vitamin A which have been found to reduce the incidence of a variety of eye disorders including macular degeneration and cataracts.

Age related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 55 in the Western world and its incidence is expected to triple by 2025.

Lutein must be either obtained from the diet or from supplements- it is not produced in the body.  The highest concentrations of lutein are found in leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach.  Supplementing with lutein on a daily basis is an easy way to do what you can to protect your eyesight.  Also- be sure to wear your sunglasses!  Eye damage from the sun is a huge factor in increasing the risk or eye problems, particularly in people with light eyes.
 

Health Q & A: Macular Degeneration

Q:

I don’t really know much about eye supplements, but I was recommended by my eye doctor to take one with lutein for macular degeneration.  He didn’t recommend a specific one though or a certain strength, so I wanted to see what you’d recommend.

A:

 

First of all, it’s great that you’re interested in starting a supplement for eye health.  Supplements containing lutein and other vision nutrients can make a big difference in slowing the rate of macular degeneration, especially when started early.

 

There have been a number of studies about the benefits of lutein (a nutrient related to vitamin A) for macular degeneration.  Harvard published a study which found that 6mg of lutein per day reduced the risk of macular degeneration by 43 percent.  Other studies have found increased benefits for higher amounts of lutein per day (10 mg or more).  In the studies it was basically found that any concentration of lutein was helpful for macular degeneration, but the higher the concentration, the better the protective effect.  The general recommendation for the best vision protection is 20mg.

 

Another nutrient, zeaxanthan, has often been paired with lutein in research studies.  Zeaxanthan has been further found to enhance lutein’s benefits on eye health.  One supplement we especially recommend is Jarrow Formulas Lutein, which has 20 mg of lutein per pill plus an extra milligram of zeaxanthan.  Lutein should be taken with food to help with absorption.

 

There was another large scale study on macular degeneration and vitamin supplements known as the “AREDS Study”.  The researchers used 500 milligrams of vitamin C; 400 IU of vitamin E; 15 milligrams of beta-carotene; 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide; and two milligrams of copper.  The study found that the participants who consumed those specific amounts of the vitamins and minerals above had had the lowest risk of developing advanced stages of age related macular degeration and its accompanying vision loss compared to the others in the study who took smaller amounts or no supplements at all.  Most of the above values would be in a quality multivitamin with the exception of the zinc (80 mg. of zinc is a pretty high dose, which would need to be added seperately). 

 

People who wished to follow the multivitamin and mineral values used in that study should make sure to take 2mg of copper along with the zinc, since high dosages of zinc can deplete copper stores in the body.

 

Protecting the eyes from sun damage by wearing sunglasses is another easy way to protect the eyes.  Make sure the sunglasses you’re using are rated for both UVA and UVB protection.  Routine eye exams are also crucial for maintaining eye health, since as they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

 

To test yourself for macular degeneration in between eye exams, click here.  It’s a site with a diagram known as the Amsler Grid which tests defects in the center of vision (the area affected my macular degeneration).