Science Update

Recent Review Investigates Eye Aging and Supporting Antioxidative Status

Age-related changes to eye health have been associated in research with antioxidative status. The eye is particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress due to its relatively high oxygen use and continued exposure to high-energy visible light. A recently published review article by Choo and colleagues explored the potential relationship between eye health and certain micronutrients known to support antioxidative status. 

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) is a berry that contains a high number of anthocyanins. It has been shown in animal studies to help prevent retinal and lens impairments and help attenuate photo-induced apoptosis. In clinical studies, bilberry has been shown to help reduce ocular fatigue, pain, and eye heaviness. It also may help improve antioxidative status and help support the body’s response to dry eye. A twelve-week study involving bilberry supplementation reported improvements in ciliary muscle function. 

Choo and colleagues also report recent studies involving eye health and saffron (Crocus sativus). Constituents in saffron have been shown to support antioxidative status, the inflammatory response, and normal apoptotic behavior. Studies involving saffron supplementation have been shown to help improve intraocular pressure (IOP) in the presence of primary open-angle glaucoma. Saffron also helped improve parameters related to IOP-related neuroinflammation and helped modulate microglial activity.

Maqui is another berry that has been shown to support eye health. Maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) is known to be the richest natural source of delphinidins, a class of anthocyanins that has been shown to support a normal response to inflammation, as well as cardiovascular health through decreased platelet adhesion. Delphinidins have also been shown to possess high radical-scavenging activity

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial assessed the efficacy of maqui berry on dry eyes. The study included participants with eye fatigue and dry eyes who use screens for more than four hours per day. After four weeks of supplementation with maqui berry extract, the treatment arm showed a significantly higher tear fluid generation compared to placebo in both eyes. However, more research, particularly in human populations, is needed before clinical conclusions can be made. 

Inflammation due to an increased amount of reactive oxygen species in corneal epithelial cells may contribute to conditions like dry eye syndrome. Research indicates that certain botanicals may help support antioxidative status and the inflammatory response in the ocular structures. Nutrients such as bilberry and maqui berry may also help support eye health and healthy aging. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT