Eye vitamins and food – Are you getting enough?
Spending more time on mobile phones, laptops, television ain’t a new habit nowadays. The concerns about its effects on our health, whether it’s related to our sleep, brain, eyes or overall health have been the topic among all. While we can’t be sure of the impact screens in the future, but here’s what you need to know about screen time and eye health now.
How does screen time affect the eyes?
Digital screens have been linked to several different eye-related symptoms, including fatigue, strain, blurred vision, dryness, redness and burning. There are a few factors that contribute to these symptoms:
This is the buzz word that comes together with screen time. Blue light is the type of light emitted by digital screens, as well as by the sun. As it contains higher energy than the rest of the lights, thus, it can be scattered and spread more easily, giving the sky its blue colour during a bright, cloudless day. The fact that it scatters more easily also makes it more difficult for our eyes to focus on screens. The harder our eyes work, the more strenuous our eyes are (1).
Blinking is essential for your eye health. It helps your eyes stay moist and oxygenated, and also clears debris from your eyes. However, in reality, we actually blink about 50% less when we are using electronic devices. This suggests that our eyes are deprived of the essential lubrication needed by our eye lids when we blink. Blinking helps to produce tears, clearing off any ‘impurities’. When we blink less, our eyes will experience dryness, redness and burning (2).
Blurred vision might occur with the increase of screen time, which might due to the need for nearsighted focus. When we are focusing on something that’s very close to our eyes for a long time, our eyes do not need to adjust for further objects, thus, when we finally need to adjust our focus on objects that are mid- or far- field of vision, our eyes require a few seconds to work out the muscles and this delayed period of time is what leads to blurred vision (3).
How can I protect my eyes from screen time?
One way to protect your eyes is by blocking the amount of blue light from entering your retina, limiting the impact on your eyes. One common solution is blue light glasses that contain a chromophore that reduces the amount of blue light from reaching the eyes. It has been proposed that blue-light filtering spectacles may alleviate eye strain associated with digital device use, improve sleep quality and protect the retina, specifically the macula, from phototoxicity.
Besides that, research also supports the fact that taking vitamin supplements can promote eye health and reduce ailments like dryness and inflammation. Among the supplements that may help with eye health are as follows:
1. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are two important carotenoids, which the pigments are produced by plants that give fruits and vegetables a yellow to reddish colour. Both Lutein and Zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants that defend body against unstable molecules called free radicals, including the eyes. As our eyes are exposed to both oxygen and light that promote production of harmful oxygen free radicals (4).
Vitamin E, Vitamin A and Vitamin C work together to keep cells and tissue strong and protected from the effects of inflammation. These fat-soluble antioxidants were shown to decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration, as well as fighting free radicals and helping you absorb more trace minerals and nutrients in general (5).
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
Photoreceptors cells in the retina contain a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acid. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that helps in the development of retinal cells, reducing inflammation and helping cells of the retina to heal and regenerate after damage due to light exposure and aging. Besides that, it was reported that people who consume omega-3 fatty acids were less likely to have age-related macular degeneration (6).
Natural astaxanthin from the microalgae, Haematococcus pluvalis, is a natural carotenoid that functions to protect the cell nucleus against free radicals generated by UV radiation, as it contains a unique molecular structure that is 100x stronger than other antioxidant molecule. Astaxanthin is often called “the king of Antioxidants”. Various clinical studies have shown that astaxanthin can improve symptoms linked to computer vision syndrome such as eye fatigue, eye irritation and blurred vision by quenching cellular inflammation due to persistent visual stress and tension of the ciliary muscle (7).
5. Zinc and Copper
The essential trace metals zinc and copper play important roles in retinal physiology and disease. They are involved in various retinal functions, including phototransduction, process of neurotransmission, as well as maintain homeostatic levels of metal ions. Free or loosely bound metal ions can exert toxic effects on neural retina. Zinc and Copper functions as antioxidants to protect the retina. Besides that, Zinc also helps with nutrient absorption and waste elimination (8).
Your eyes and vision are affected by many factors, including genetics and age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced diet can contribute significantly to the health of your eyes.
1. Zhao ZC, Zhou Y, Tan G, Li J. Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes. Int J Ophthalmol. 2018 Dec 18;11(12):1999-2003. doi: 10.18240/ijo.2018.12.20. PMID: 30588436; PMCID: PMC6288536.
2. Evinger C, Bao JB, Powers AS, Kassem IS, Schicatano EJ, Henriquez VM, Peshori KR. Dry eye, blinking, and blepharospasm. Mov Disord. 2002;17 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S75-8. doi: 10.1002/mds.10065. PMID: 11836761; PMCID: PMC3327285.
3. Sheppard AL, Wolffsohn JS. Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration. BMJ Open Ophthalmol. 2018 Apr 16;3(1):e000146. doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2018-000146. PMID: 29963645; PMCID: PMC6020759.
4. Buscemi S, Corleo D, Di Pace F, Petroni ML, Satriano A, Marchesini G. The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients. 2018 Sep 18;10(9):1321. doi: 10.3390/nu10091321. PMID: 30231532; PMCID: PMC6164534.
5. Brown NA, Bron AJ, Harding JJ, Dewar HM. Nutrition supplements and the eye. Eye (Lond). 1998;12 ( Pt 1):127-33. doi: 10.1038/eye.1998.21. PMID: 9614529.
6. Zhang AC, Singh S, Craig JP, Downie LE. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Eye Health: Opinions and Self-Reported Practice Behaviors of Optometrists in Australia and New Zealand. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 22;12(4):1179. doi: 10.3390/nu12041179. PMID: 32331489; PMCID: PMC7230711.
7. Giannaccare G, Pellegrini M, Senni C, Bernabei F, Scorcia V, Cicero AFG. Clinical Applications of Astaxanthin in the Treatment of Ocular Diseases: Emerging Insights. Mar Drugs. 2020 May 1;18(5):239. doi: 10.3390/md18050239. PMID: 32370045; PMCID: PMC7281326.
8. Ugarte M, Osborne NN, Brown LA, Bishop PN. Iron, zinc, and copper in retinal physiology and disease. Surv Ophthalmol. 2013 Nov-Dec;58(6):585-609. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2012.12.002. PMID: 24160731.