Most of us living in NZ are very aware of the dangers of UV light on our eyes. UV light exposure is well documented in contributing to damage to our cornea, the lens and for causing cataracts. We have had it drummed into us from a very early age here in NZ- the importance of good sunglasses and a sun hat to protect our face and eyes from these potentially damaging rays.
These days we are more and more exposed to light rays known as blue light, which reach deeper into the eye and can cause damage to the back of the eye and the retina. With a huge increase in the use of mobile phones, using computers for work and being inside under fluorescent and LED lamps – we are being exposed to more and more harmful blue light waves. By 2020 90% of all our light sources are estimated to be coming from more energy efficient LED lightbulbs- so blue light is everywhere, in our homes, at work, in mother nature (blue light gives us those feel good blue skies) and our exposure is increasing.
While UV light impacts the front part of the eye and eyeball and surrounding tissues, the Blue Light energy causes damage to the back of the eye. This is partly due to blue light exposure and partly due to an ageing population. There is now growing evidence to suggest that blue light exposure could cause permanent eye damage, and contributes to the destruction of cells in the centre of the retina, which eventually can lead to vision loss
Some blue light is essential for our natural human circadian sleep/wake cycle to be regulated 2 and it has a healthy impact on your eyes and vision. Blue light also helps boost the overall feeling of well-being, makes you feel brighter and alert – (who doesn’t love a bright crisp blue sky to feel in love with life)?
But because short-wavelength, high energy blue light scatters more easily than other visible light, it is not as easily focused by our eyes. When you’re looking at computer screens and other digital devices that emit significant amounts of blue light, this unfocused visual “noise” reduces contrast and can contribute to computer visual strain. This flickering wobbly light is why we get eyestrain, headaches, and feel tired if we have been in bright sunlight or looking at computers and phone screens for many hours. Digital screen technology has also changed rapidly and many of today’s screens and devices use LED backlight technology which emits a very strong blue light.
The A to Z of eye health
So, we all need to pay attention to our eyes and make sure our diet and lifestyle choices are supporting the health and wellbeing and longevity of these complex organs. Our eyes need a good daily dose of Vitamin A which comes from colourful fruits and vegetables (especially orange and red veg and fruit). Vitamin A also comes from milk, eggs and liver. In addition you need a variety of carotenoids. Carotenoids are also called phytonutrients, a term that describes plant-derived nutrients confirmed as important to human health. You get these from the red and yellow pigments in plant foods only – so if you don’t eat a balanced diet rich in fresh fruit and veggies chances are you are deficient. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the good guys that protect your retina which is the part of your eye that suffers the most from blue light exposure. These two carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) are naturally occurring plant pigments in dark leafy greens, including kale, spinach, rocket and green leaf lettuce. They are also in a variety of other vegetables, including broccoli, capsicum, carrots and tomatoes. Eggs are another good source of these important goodies. The other powerhouses for eye health are flavonoids (brightly coloured fruit and veggies again – plus dark chocolate) and vitamin C.
New Zealand blackcurrants protect you from the blue rays
New Zealand blackcurrants (compared to other varieties from around the world) are packed with flavonoids, vitamin c and lutein and have been shown to greatly reduce visual fatigue following a long day looking at a computer screen. In clinical trials done in Japan 3 in 2000, the subject group that did not consume blackcurrants on a daily basis showed a significant deterioration in their refractive index (which indicates they are experiencing visual fatigue). Those who consumed blackcurrants each day did not.
A great natural product that is the richest in natural anthocyanin is the humble Kiwi Blackcurrant (which performs more highly than other blackcurrants from around the world, bilberry, boysenberry and blueberry). A great way to nourish and support your eyes and to build resistance to oxidative stress is to consider Crystal Vision™ packed with Blackcurrants from NZ, eyebright, liquorice and dandelion leafs with a dash of calendula and gingko biloba to give your eyes the support they need.
TAPS Code: PP1531
Comparative ORAC Antioxidant Activity
Source: Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand, Tested July 11, 2007
TAPS Code: PP1531
- Vision Problems in the U.S.: Prevalence of Adult Vision Impairment and Age-Related Eye Disease in America, Fifth Edition. Prevent Blindness America, 2012. Available at: www.preventblindness.org/visionproblems. Accessed: December 2013.
- Researchers use blue light to treat sleep disturbances in the elderly. Lighting Research Centre. 2005; April 14. Available at: news/enews/Apr05/general245.html. Accessed: January 2014.
- Matsumoto H, Hanamura S, Kishi M et al. A Preparative scale isolation of four anthocyanin components in blackcurrant (ribes nigrum L) fruits. J Agric Food Sci Submitted for publication 2000