Stratum Resource post, Vision Support for Gamers

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Vision Support for Gamers

An interview with Nena Dockery, Scientific Affairs Manager at Stratum Nutrition  

Nutrition Industry Executive recently asked industry experts to expand on their knowledge of blue light protection specifically for gamers. Our Scientific Affairs Manager, Nena Dockery, was asked to join the panel of experts. Here’s what she had to say on “Vision Support for Gamers.” 

A lesser discussed issue among e-sports players is vision support. What are some of the eye-health risks associated with constant gaming?

There are three main areas of concern that affect eye health in regular gamers and e-sports participants. First, it has become widely acknowledged that looking at a video screen for extended periods of time can put considerable strain on the eyes. Focus and concentration on a screen can cause the viewer to blink less frequently, and this would be particularly true for gamers who are interacting with rapidly changing movements on the screen. Gamers may experience stinging, burning or blurred vision as a result, which can be frustrating to competitive players. 

Screen users may also experience eye muscle fatigue from focusing on one point for a long time. Headaches and “tired” eyes are common complaints associated with eye muscle fatigue. However, these challenges are generally not permanent and can be resolved through better screen habits and practices.

The next, and possibly most significant physical risk to gamers, is extended exposure to blue light. Blue light is a part of the natural visible light spectrum characterized by a short-wavelength and high energy. It is present in artificial light sources and is higher in sources using light emitting diodes or LEDs. LEDs have overtaken incandescent and fluorescent lamps for both home and commercial lighting because of their lower energy usage. They are also the choice for backlighting digital devices. (1) Unfortunately, the high energy from blue light passes through the cornea and lens to the retina. Limited data indicates that direct and prolonged exposure to blue light can contribute to dry eyes, cataract development or progression and age-related macular degeneration. It may also stimulate the brain, inhibit melatonin secretion, and enhance adrenocortical hormone production. (2) 

The greatest source of blue light is the sun, (another good reason to wear UV-blocking sunglasses) but the extreme exposure to blue light from digital devices, especially by gamers, may come at a cost. Finally, there is beginning to be enough evidence to indicate that viewing a video screen, especially at night could alter circadian rhythms. This is also related to exposure to the blue light wavelength. The effects on circadian rhythms have led to the use of blue light to effectively treat sleep disorders and seasonal affective disorder under controlled conditions. However, prolonged exposure at night during the time when the body’s circadian rhythms are preparing the body for sleep can disrupt the cycle leading to abnormalities in the sleep/wake cycle.

Are there any research/studies that illustrate the impact of constant gaming on vision that you find compelling and a great basis for formulation to this consumer base?

The retina of the eye is composed of delicate neuronal tissue that senses light and converts it to neural signals, which are then sent to the brain for conversion to visual images. The high energy of blue light is particularly damaging to retinal tissue, possibly through photooxidation that can damage or destroy the photo receptors. (3) However, even with that knowledge, based mostly on cell studies and research in rodents, researchers and ophthalmologists are mixed in their assessment of the damage caused by the blue light emitted by digital devices. The amount of exposure is very low in comparison to the amount emitted from other sources, especially the sun. We don’t stare directly into these light sources, so most of us are not at substantial risk. However, gamers spend many hours directly in front of digital devices, so their exposure is greater.

Studies in rodents have indicated that the damaging effects are real and worth investigating in humans, especially those who have significant exposure to the blue light emitted by digital devices. However, long-term damage to eyesight has yet to be conclusively determined. The drastic increase in computer and other digital device use has escalated in the last couple of years and the use by esports enthusiasts has increased even more dramatically than the average user. The research simply hasn’t caught up. This is an area in its infancy. Currently, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s position is that the research shows no meaningful link between blue light and damage to human retinas or age-related macular degeneration. (4) Therefore, at this point, there is no compelling data, but as an industry interested more in prevention than in treatment, we should be in the forefront of developing products that support eye health in populations at risk, such as gamers. Products can be developed that are based on the current knowledge of how blue light might possibly have long-term consequences on vision and the development of eye diseases.

Please discuss why formulating vision-support for esports players is a worthwhile investment.

It is estimated that there are around 234 million esports enthusiasts. (5) E-sports were beginning to be recognized as legitimate competitive sports prior to 2020, but growth during the global pandemic was significant, as live entertainment events across the globe were cancelled. (6) It was the only type of sporting endeavor that was totally unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic. People all over the world were spending extended time at home, with more opportunity to stream television shows and movies, engage in social media, and play video games. Many video game enthusiasts began competing and some became serious athletes.

Lifting restrictions from the pandemic did not diminish the growing interest in esports, and they are now recognized by several sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee. Unfortunately, the effects on eye health from esports are well-recognized in the gaming community and impact virtually every serious player at some point. Currently there are very few OTC or prescription products that address the eye health needs of competitive esports participants. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities for the dietary supplement industry to expand into different aspects of eye health, addressing all three of the main challenges to eye health - the strain on eyes, the oxidative stress from blue light and the impact on circadian rhythms.

The demographic of the gaming community is not one that will continue to buy products because they simply know those products will benefit them in the long-term. They want immediate results. Efficacy must be demonstrated in clinical trials and must be significant enough to be felt by a substantial number of users.

Please discuss your vision-support ingredient and how it is suitable/relevant for eye-health supplements/beverages aimed at esports players.

There are a few nutrients that many optometrists and ophthalmologists recommend for general eye health. These nutrients could be even more critical for those engaging in esports because of the additional strain on the eyes. Along with antioxidant vitamins, such as Vitamin C and E, lutein + zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids stand out. The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow carotenoid antioxidants that are concentrated in the macula, the central part of the retina and area of sharpest focus. These two are considered as natural sunblocks against blue light and may help protect against the damaging effects of blue light exposure. (7)

Lutein and zeaxanthin, along with astaxanthin, an important antioxidant carotenoid that is one of the few that can cross the blood/retinal barrier, are fat-soluble nutrients that could be critical support nutrients for protection against blue light damage to the retina. VitaSperse and VitaDry technology from 3i Solutions (a Stratum Nutrition technology partner) provide an advanced way to incorporate fat-soluble nutrients into water-based formulations, greatly expanding the opportunities for these nutrients into beverage formats. VitaSperse has already been shown to enhance CoQ10 absorption and efficacy in human clinical trials. (8)

Currently, 3i Solutions is running bioaccessability studies at Ohio State University on VitaSperse and VitaDry carotenoids, which are beginning to reveal promising results under simulated digestion, demonstrating 5-10 times greater bioaccessability compared to control nutrients delivered in gelcaps. Stratum Nutrition offers NatAxtin®, a premier astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis from the Atacama Desert of Chile, in VitaSperse® and VitaDry® technologies.

Stratum also offers Ahiflower® seed oil, a multi-omega fatty acid, in oil, water dispersible VitaSperse, and powder delivery formats. Omega-3 fatty acids are well-recognized for their benefits in managing dry eyes and protecting general eye health. Ahiflower is a plant-based multi-omega fatty acid blend containing several omega-3s, including alpha linolenic acid (ALA), stearidonic acid (SDA), and eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), along with the important anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Maintaining healthy fatty acid metabolism is critical for overall health and can be difficult without supplementation for many people. Ahiflower helps fill in the gaps, helping to facilitate a healthy omega-3/omega-6 metabolism.

Let’s talk and get your next e-Sports formulation rolling: https://www.stratumnutrition.com/contact.

 

References:

1. Tosini, G., Ferguson, I., & Tsubota, K. (2016) Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Molecular Vision, 22, 61-72.

2. Zhao, Z-C., Zhou, Y., Tan, G., & Li, J. (2018) Research progress about the effect and prevention of blue light on eyes, International Journal of Ophthalmology, 11(12), 1999-2003.

3. Fan, B., Zhang, C.X., Chi, J., Liang, Y., Bao, X.L., Cong, Y.Y., Yu, B., Li, X., Li, G.Y. (2022) The molecular mechanism of retina light injury focusing on damage from short wavelength light. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 8482149.

4. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/digital-devices-your-eyes

5. 27 Mind Blowing Esports Stats (2022) – Exploding Topics. https://explodingtopics.com/blog/esports-statistics.

6. Gough, C. (2021). Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic effect on the eSports industry-statistics & facts. https://www.statista.com/topics/8316/covid-19-impact-esports-market/#topicHeader__wrapper

7. Bungau, S., Abdel-Daim, M.M., Tit, D.M., Ghanem, E., Sato, S., Maruyama-Inoue, M., Yamane, S., & Kadonosono, K. (2019) Health benefits of polyphenols and carotenoids in age-related eye diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2019, 9783429.

8. Derosa G, et al. Coenzyme q10 liquid supplementation in dyslipidemic subjects with statin-related clinical symptoms: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Drug Design, Development, and Therapy 2019;13:3647-55.