John Appleton: Looking After Our Eyes with Capsanthin

How many of us think that losing our vision is just a normal part of ageing and accept that diseases of the eye such as macular degeneration and glaucoma only affect ‘other people?

As with anything, when it comes to our health, prevention should always be our primary focus and it’s become more important than ever before that parents/caregivers, employers and the population at large are aware of the significant risk to our eyes which comes from our almost constant use of digital screens, whether it be televisions, computers, tablets or cellphones. 21st century living has its benefits but there are downsides too.

Digital screens emit blue light rays, which in the visible light spectrum have the shortest wavelength but the highest energy. Although our cornea and lens are very effective at blocking UV rays from reaching the sensitive retina at the back of the eyeball, virtually all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. Laboratory studies have shown that too much exposure to blue light can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina. This causes changes that resemble those of macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss.

I regularly see young children staring at digital screens which are less than half a metre from their eyes. When using gadgets and looking at digital screens, the eyes will focus on this near range object. As such, the eye blinking rate (BR) can reduce from resting BR of 15 per minute to about 5 per minute. This means that the eyes are exposed to very high levels of blue light. How will this effect children later in life?

With our eyes, the real concern is that once the damage has been done, most often it can’t be reversed. So is there anything that we can we do to look after our eyes and potentially limit the damage that may occur over many years?

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid pigments that impart yellow or orange color to various common foods such as cantaloupe, pasta, corn, carrots, orange/yellow peppers, fish, salmon and eggs. Their role in human health, in particular the health of the eye, is well established.

There is however a new ‘kid’ on the block. It’s known as capsanthin and it’s a very bioactive carotenoid derived from Capsicum annuum (or chili pepper) that has been shown in clinical studies to deliver a more holistic range of benefits than other eye health solutions by addressing both short and long-term eye health.

Researchers have discovered that capsanthin is able to increase macular pigment optical density (MPOD), thus providing protection from blue light. This has to be great news for all of us.

Capsanthin however has much more to offer by taking eye health one step further.

Many older folks suffer with in an increase in intraocular pressure (ocular hypertension) caused by an imbalance in production and drainage of the fluid inside the eye. Pressure builds as the eye creates new fluid and the channels which normally drain it become obstructed. This can damage the optic nerve and lead to the onset of glaucoma, which if not treated adequately can result in permanent blindness. It’s exciting to learn that researchers have discovered that capsanthin can support normal intraocular pressure.

I spend a lot of time in front of the computer and at the end of the day, my eyes can be very fatigued. I have been taking lutein and zeaxanthin for several years and I have recently added capsanthin to my daily must have list of supplements. I have noted with interest that over recent years my vision has improved rather than deteriorated. Can I put this down to supplementing with key carotenoids? I can’t say for sure, but I am not planning to stop taking them. (John Appleton)      E: