Screen time. Two words we all know too intimately at this point, as screens consume both our professional and personal lives. While limiting our screen time would be beneficial, it’s not realistic in a professional or educational setting. One solution that has been devised is blue light blocking glasses. Another is dietary supplementation, with lutein being a particularly well-known and respected ingredient for this purpose.
“The demand for eye health products, and lutein in particular, is strong. Many of our customers are aware of the negative impact of increased screen time and exposure to high levels of blue light and its effects on macular health, eye strain and interference with a good sleep,” says Eric Cohen, Senior Brand Manager, Private Brands, The Vitamin Store.
Lutein has been on Nutritional Insights list of ingredients to watch before, in 2019, when eye health was one of the top 10 selling categories in the consumer supplement channel in the United States with $347 million in sales. Within this category, lutein brought in $52 million, after growing 38.8% year over year. This time around, eye health hasn’t seen the growth it had then, but according to ingredient sales data from SPINS (Chicago), lutein has increased by 161% in the cognitive health category of the American consumer supplement chain in 2022. This indicates an evolution of the ingredient and the way it is used.
Research has shown that lutein can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration to keep our eyes healthy. As a powerful antioxidant, Lutein quenches singlet oxygen and scavenges free radicals and also has the ability to filter blue light to reduce phototoxic damage to photoreceptor cells.1 New research suggests that lutein may also play an important role in our cognitive function. For example, lutein is thought to preserve neural efficiency, and some research has shown that higher circulating levels of lutein are associated with better cognitive performance in older people and even centenarians.1 Specifically, lutein has been linked to improved memory performance as well as spatial memory, verbal fluency, effective learning, and reasoning.1
Therefore, including lutein in a supplement formula lends itself well to a more holistic approach that allows users to not only support their eye health, but also complementary areas such as memory and concentration. In combination with other scientifically validated ingredients, lutein exhibits great synergy in the area of cognitive health, says Irfan Qureshi, vice president, product development and quality assurance, Healthy Directions.
“A growing field of science includes the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin on brain health,” he explains. “Therefore, new synergies with these ingredients could include several other nootropic ingredients that support memory, focus, and other cognitive benefits. The mood-supporting ingredients would also combine well with lutein and zeaxanthin.
A good example of a category that could and does benefit from the inclusion of eye health ingredients like lutein is the esports category. Competitive and even recreational gamers turn to these products to support focus, energy and stamina for long hours of play, with eye strain being a major factor in those marathon sessions. However, esports, although trendy, is a marketing niche.
Ultimately, the idea of supporting eye health, in addition to cognitive health outcomes, both acute and long-term, appeals to a wider audience.
While immune health was of paramount importance during the pandemic for obvious reasons, awareness of eye health has also increased due to virtual learning and working from home where our interactions with our peers class and our colleagues were limited to phone calls or video calls. While virtual learning has largely been phased out, virtual work from home has become more attractive to the workforce for the flexibility it offers. As a result, says Scott Dicker, Senior Market Intelligence Analyst at SPINS, we can continue to expect steady demand for eye health products. Related categories such as esports that combine eye health needs with energy and focus requirements will also be in demand, but to a lesser extent.
“I think the overriding theme here is that eye health is going to be more important because of the extra screen time everyone has,” says Dicker. “Of course, if you’re a competitive gamer, you’re going to look for whatever you can to help out. I think that group of people is relatively small compared to those who find themselves in front of their computer and their phone Their eyes get tired and they will seek out an eye health/eye support product, [and] Lutein is the best known ingredient in eye health supplements today.
The potential cognitive health benefits and eye health benefits of lutein are highly complementary to marketed products for focus and energy. As such, the inclusion of lutein can be a valuable differentiator. As more cognitive health research is conducted on lutein, the profile of the ingredient is set to grow.
- Buscemi, S.; Corleo, D.; Di Pace, F.; Petroni, ML; Satriano, A.; Marchesini, G. The effect of lutein on ocular and extraocular health. Nutrients. 2018, ten (8): 1321. DOI: 10.3390/nu10091321
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