The future of lighting is LED but what impact does this have on our eyesight? US-Indian firm OmniActive has launched a European version of its What's Your B.L.U.E.? campaign to shed light on the burgeoning health risk, which it says carotenoid supplements can help combat.
LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs have been championed as an eco-technology with greater lifespan and electrical efficiency than incandescent and fluorescent lamps.
As a result, the use of LED bulbs has skyrocketed in recent years, with a market report from McKinsey & Company predicting the global market will grow from €7bn in 2010 to €40bn in 2016 and up to €65bn by 2020.
By 2020 LEDs are set to represent almost 60% of the total lighting market.
Yet recent studies have suggested that behind this energy-efficient option lies a threat to eye health.LED white light produces significant amounts of damaging blue light.
"Light-emitting diode (LED) is a solid-state semiconductor converting electrical energy directly into visible light. Unlike tungsten lamps (incandescent lights), LED lights project lights by stimulating phosphors with blue light, thus they contain an extremely high content of hazardous constituents of visible spectrum. (Behar-Cohen et al., 2011), " a group of Chinese researchers wrote in 2014.
"Since shorter wavelengths of approximately 400-500 nm are particularly more hazardous, LED light may be more likely to cause photochemical damage to retinas than any other light source. (Okuno et al., 2002)."
Coupled with increasing exposure to high-energy blue light sources from electronic devices like televisions, tablets, smartphones and computers, is the inspiration for OmniActive Health Technologies' campaign What's Your B.L.U.E.? (Blue Light User Exposer).
Clients are invited to use the co-branded educational material, which name drops OmniActive's lutein and zeaxanthin combination ingredient Lutemax 2020.
The material includes a quiz to calculate an individual's 'B.L.U.E. score' and encourages the consumption of carotenoids to build up macular pigment in the eye, which helps filter harmful blue light and stop damage to cells in the eye, the rods and the cones.
This protective yellow macular pigment in the retina is made up of carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin, which we get from the diet through many fruits, vegetables and egg yolks.
Lynda Doyle, vice president for global marketing for the firm, told us that the campaign was about bringing the issue to a digital audience and driving home the message of 'lutein for every age' as an increasing amount of young people are exposed to more and more screen time.
"The earlier we start, the better", she said.
The co-branding has already been taken up by lenses firm Blue Light Defense as well as supplement brand Fortifeye,which uses OmniActive's marigold-derived Lutemax 2020 ingredient.
Eyes on Asia
The campaign was launched in US last October and was pushed to European audiences at the industry event Vitafoods at Geneva, Switzerland last week.
The campaign flyers have been translated into Chinese language, while Doyle said the New-Jersey headquartered company was open to other languages depending on demand.
According to McKinsey & Company lighting market report, Asia currently leads the market transition to LED lighting, driven particularly by Japan and China.
Backed by science, but not a claim
It is believed that a diet rich in carotenoids found in the eye- lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin- can help maintain thickness of the protective macula, which declines with age.
In January this year, researchers from Harvard and Brown University in the US found increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a 40% reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The conclusions were based on 20 years of data from 102,046 participants in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up study.
However in the EU there are still no approved health claims for lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin for eye health, with past attempts from OmniActive's competitors Kemin and DSM rejected by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) four times due to insufficient scientific evidence.