Monday’s Great American Eclipse has magnified the important—and often times overlooked—topic of sunlight exposure on vision health. The cardinal rule for eclipse watching is, of course, do not look directly at the eclipse with naked eyes. The reason for this directive is called solar retinopathy. This is a condition that occurs when the sun’s intense light floods the retina and causes irreparable damage. However, an eclipse is not the only time during which the sun can damage the eye. Although the sun is most commonly associated with UVA and UVB radiation, within the spectrum of visible light emitted from the sun hides harmful high-energy blue light.
Within the violet/blue wavelength range lies a narrow band of high-energy blue light (390-500 nm) and sunlight is our largest source of exposure. Over the past two decades, however, other man-made sources have only further increased the amounts of blue light to which we are exposed. For example, “cool” LED lights emit a large amount of light in the 420-500 nm range and compact fluorescent bulbs emit blue light in the 400-500 nm range. In addition to modern light sources, common digital devices (400-520 nm), computer screens (420-520 nm), and televisions (400-520 nm) also emit high-energy blue light. Whereas we know that we must protect our eyes from the sun, we are often unaware that we also need to protect our eyes from high-energy blue light from our devices. Whether you are exposed to the sun, digital screens or energy efficient lighting, the good news is that supplementation with the macular carotenoids (lutein, RR-zeaxanthin and RS [meso]-zeaxanthin) has been shown to help support vision health and performance resulting from their excellent ability to absorb wavelengths of light in the violet to green light range (~400 – ~550 nm).
B.L.U.E. (Blue Light User Exposure) is the first and only study in individuals exposed to digital screens and other sources of high-energy blue light for long durations (> 6 h) that demonstrates the beneficial effects on ocular health and performance, sleep quality, eye strain and fatigue from supplementation with lutein, RR-zeaxanthin and RS (meso)-zeaxanthin from Lutemax 2020. While the excitement of the solar eclipse is waning, the tremendous opportunity to formulate with the only macular carotenoids ingredient studied in the B.L.U.E. study is still waxing.