These days we all spend a good part of our day looking at digital screens, from our smartphones to our tablets and desktop computers.
And while computers have opened up an incredible new world for us it’s come at a price. All that screen time is starting to take a toll on our eyesight.
Digital screens emit a high energy blue light, which as anyone who spends time staring at a screen can confirm causes eye fatigue.
But even more concerning is that when your eyes are constantly being exposed to blue light damaging free radicals are produced. Over time those free radicals can harm the macula in your eyes leading to vision loss.
But let’s face it, chances are you’re not going to give up your smartphone or computer anytime soon.
So does that mean you have to just live with the eye damage and eventually the vision loss it causes?
Not anymore, thanks to some breakthrough research published in the journal Foods.1
Common nutrients could protect eyes against vision loss
Researchers from the University of Georgia conducting research on the effect of plant pigments on our eyes uncovered a two-nutrient combo that can help protect our peepers from damaging blue light.
In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study a group of young adults who were exposed to at least six hours of screen time daily were given either a supplement containing a combination of lutein and zeaxanthin, or a placebo for six months.
The volunteer’s had their macular pigment, physical signs of excessive screen use and eyesight—including contrast sensitivity, photostress recovery and disability glare—evaluated at the start of the study, again at three months and finally at six months.
And the results were stunning.
The lucky folks who got the real deal supplement had a significant improvement in their macular pigment by the end of the six months!
But the benefits didn’t end there. The volunteers who got the lutein and zeaxanthin also had measurably better visual performance and far fewer signs of excessive screen use, eye fatigue and even headaches.
Better sleep could lead to unexpected benefits
Plus, as an added bonus their sleep improved, which could lead to some other unexpected benefits.
A well-known side effect of exposure to blue light is insomnia or sleep disturbances. And scientists say the resulting sleep loss could send your risk for diabetes and heart disease skyrocketing.
You see, poor sleep can lead to insulin resistance. In fact, in one shocking study University of Chicago researchers concluded that just three nights of poor sleep could raise your risk for type 2 diabetes essentially as much as if you suddenly gained 20 or so extra pounds.2
And in a study published in the journal Diabetes Care folks with sleep problems were found to have a disturbing threefold risk for being diagnosed with diabetes, compared to sounds sleepers.3
Poor sleepers are also at a higher risk for weight gain, hypertension and heart disease.4,5,6
In other words, while more research needs to be done it could be that the benefits of supplementing with these two common carotenoids could extend far beyond just protecting your eyesight against vision loss.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally found in spinach, kale, radicchio, basil, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus. And lutein and zeaxanthin supplements are widely available online, and in stores that sell nutritional supplements.
1. “Macular Carotenoid Supplementation Improves Visual Performance, Sleep Quality, and Adverse Physical Symptoms in Those with High Screen Time Exposure,” Foods 2017, 6(7), 47
2. “Slow-wave sleep and the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans,” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jan 22; 105(3): 1044–1049
3. “Sleep Disturbance and Onset of Type 2 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 2004 Jan; 27(1): 282-283
4. “Sleep disorders and the development of insulin resistance and obesity, Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am., 2013 Sep;42(3):617-34
5. “Cardiovascular, Inflammatory and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation,” Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Jan-Feb; 51(4): 294–302
6. “Inadequate sleep as a contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes,” Can J Diabetes. 2013 Apr;37(2):103-8
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