The Visual Benefits of Astaxanthin for Gaming & More


Astaxanthin is one of my favorite nutraceuticals due to its broad range of beneficial effects demonstrated in human clinical research. As such, I have already written a few articles about it (see my articles in the May 2012, September 2020, and July 2023 issues of Vitamin Retailer). In the current issue, Iโ€™m going to review research on the visual benefits of astaxanthinโ€”particularly in relationship to visual display terminal (VDT) induced visual fatigue, as well as video gaming.

VDT Induced Visual Fatigue

VDTs, including computers, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles, etc., have become essential parts of modern life. Prolonged exposure to a VDT increases the load on the eyes and causes symptoms of visual fatigue, such as blurred vision, dry eyes, burning, headache, eye pain, dizziness and swelling. Visual fatigue is increasing in prevalence among VDT users, producing discomfort for extended periods.1 Thatโ€™s where astaxanthin can help.

Astaxanthin for VDT Users and Asthenopia

In a four-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study,2 people suffering from VDT induced visual fatigue were treated with 6 mg/day astaxanthin treated (as Astazine from BGG) or a placebo. The two groupsโ€™ visual accommodation (i.e., the ability of the lens of the eye to change shape, allowing for a change in focus from far to near) was evaluated as well as a subjective questionnaire designed to evaluate visual asthenopia (eye fatigue). Results showed that the change of visual accommodation before and after astaxanthin supplementation improved significantly compared with the placebo. Likewise, there was a marked reduction in โ€œheavy headednessโ€ claims (i.e., the feeling of faintness, dizziness, or feeling of floating, wooziness) in the questionnaire evaluating visual asthenopia. Additional improvements included the fatigue symptoms โ€œdimness of sightโ€ and โ€œstiff shoulders and back.โ€ In conclusion, 6 mg of astaxanthin per day from was shown to improve eye fatigue and be safe for consumption.

Another six-week, randomized, placebo-controlled study3 was conducted in 60 healthy VDT users. Participants received 9 mg/day of astaxanthin (as Astazine from BGG) or placebo. Visual acuity, functional visual acuity and pupil constriction rate were measured before and after visual display terminal work. Results were, in participants aged โ‰ฅ40 years, corrected visual acuity of the dominant eye after VDT demonstrated a higher protective effect in the astaxanthin group vs the control group (p<0.05). In participants aged <40 years, no significant difference was seen between the astaxanthin and control groups. These results suggest astaxanthin reduces oxidative stress caused by visual display terminal work. Age-related reduction in ciliary muscle strength is likely the main detractor of visual acuity. Correspondingly, astaxanthin reduced visual display terminal work-induced visual stress in the middle-aged and elderly.

A four-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study3 confirmed the efficacy of 6 mg/day of astaxanthin (as Astazine from BGG) on accommodation and asthenopia and its safety in two groups of subjects who complained of asthenopia. Study results were that visual accommodation was significantly improved in the astaxanthin group compared to the placebo group. Likewise, the subjective degree of asthenopia significantly improved in two parameters compared to placebo: โ€œbleary-eye feelingโ€ and โ€œtendency of irritation.โ€ Also, there were no changes in laboratory tests, nor were there any adverse events. In conclusion, administration of 6 mg/day Astaxanthin improved visual accommodation and subjective symptoms of asthenopia and was confirmed to be completely safe.

Astaxanthin, Lutein & Zeaxanthin for Video Gaming and More

The impairment of eye-hand coordination and smooth-pursuit eye movement caused by VDT use may impact daily living activities for which no effective methods are currently known. Conversely, astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, are known to help improve the eye health of VDT users. This randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical trial5 tested the hypothesis that the combination of astaxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin can prevent the impairment of eye-hand coordination and smooth-pursuit eye movement in healthy subjects (20-60 years) who routinely played video games, used computers, or performed VDT activities. Subjects received 6 mg of astaxanthin (as Astazine from BGG), 10 mg of lutein, and 2 mg of zeaxanthin or placebo daily for eight weeks. Eye-hand coordination, smooth-pursuit eye movements, and macular pigment optical density (MPOD) was evaluated at 0, two, four and eight weeks. Results were that the active group showed significantly improved eye-hand coordination after VDT operation at eight weeks, but no improvement on smooth-pursuit eye movements. The active group also showed a significant increase in MPOD levels. In conclusion, consumption of a supplement containing astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin mitigates the decline of eye-hand coordination after VDT operation.

Astaxanthin, Anthocyanin & Lutein for Video Gaming

Another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial6 examined the effects of 6 mg astaxanthin (as Astazine from BGG), 72 mg anthocyanin (from bilberry extract), and 10 mg lutein daily on the eye function in healthy Japanese adults with eye fatigue after operating VDT as a video game. Forty-four subjects were randomly but equally assigned to the active or placebo group. Accommodative function, tear film break-up time, visual acuity, the value of Schirmerโ€™s test (i.e., determining if the eye produces enough tears to keep it moist), macular pigment optical density level, muscle hardness and a questionnaire were evaluated before and after a six-week intervention. Each group included 20 subjects in the efficacy analysis. The active group showed a significant improvement in the percentage of pupillary response of an average of both eyes and dominant eye pre- and post-visual display terminal operation at six weeks compared with the placebo group. Moreover, the active group showed a significant improvement in the scores of โ€œA sensation of trouble in focusing the eyesโ€ and โ€œDifficulty in seeing objects in oneโ€™s hand and nearby, or fine printโ€ compared with the placebo group between before and after ingestion. Therefore, six-weeks consumption of the astaxanthin, anthocyanin and lutein combination inhibited a decrease in the accommodative function caused by VDP.

Astaxanthin for Other Visual Benefits

To examine the effects of 6 mg/day astaxanthin (as Astazine from BGG) or placebo on both visual acuity and muscle fatigue in two respective experiments, a four-week, placebo-controlled study was conducted.7 In the first experiment, the deep vision and the critical flicker fusion (i.e., the frequency at which flickering light can be perceived as continuous and it is used to assess the processing of temporal vision) of the astaxanthin group was significantly improved compared to the placebo group. In the second experiment, serum lactic acid concentration at two minutes after activity (1,200 m running) of the treatment group was significantly lower than that of the control one. Additional studies8-10 have also shown improvements in visual accommodation and other parameters of health vision in subjects supplemented with 4-12 mg/day astaxanthin.

Cracked Cell Astaxanthin

Even though almost all astaxanthin is derived from the microalgae known as Haematococcus pluvialis, there can still be significant differences between different astaxanthin materials. One vital difference is whether the cell wall of H. pluvialis algae is cracked. A cracked wall helps in two important ways. One is for the downstream production to extract astaxanthin out of the biomass, and the other is for the human body to absorb astaxanthin. It is questionable whether a significant amount of astaxanthin is available and absorbed from uncracked astaxanthin. Furthermore, be advised that so called โ€œcold pressed astaxanthinโ€ and astaxanthin claiming to be โ€œextraction and solvent freeโ€ may not always provide usable amounts of astaxanthin. Throughout this article Iโ€™ve cited the fact that the astaxanthin used in the studies was Astazine from BGG. Besides providing an accurate representation of the research, this branded astaxanthin is appropriately extracted from broken cell wall H. pluvialis.

Conclusion

Human clinical research has clearly demonstrated that astaxanthin (as Astazine from BGG) promotes visual benefits and symptom relief (e.g., visual fatigue) in people using VDT. In combination with other nutraceuticals, astaxanthin has also been shown to mitigate the decline of eye-hand coordination and improve measures of visual acuity in people playing video games.VR

References:

1 Yin Z, Liu B, Hao D, Yang L, Feng Y. Evaluation of VDT-Induced Visual Fatigue by Automatic Detection of Blink Features. Sensors (Basel). 2022 Jan 25;22(3):916.

2 Nagaki Y, Mihara M, Tsukuhara H, Ohno S. The supplementation effect of Astaxanthin on Accommodation and Asthenopia. Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 2006; 22(1):41-54.

3 Sekikawa T, Kizawa Y, Li Y, Miura N. Effects of diet containing astaxanthin on visual function in healthy individuals: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel study. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2023 Jan;72(1):74-81.

4 Shiratori K, Ogami K, Nitta T, et al. Effect of Astaxanthin on Accommodation and Asthenopia-Efficacy-Identification Study in Healthy Volunteers. Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 2005;21(6):637-650.

5 Yoshida K, Sakai O, Honda T, Kikuya T, Takeda R, Sawabe A, Inaba M, Koike C. Effects of Astaxanthin, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin on Eye-Hand Coordination and Smooth-Pursuit Eye Movement after Visual Display Terminal Operation in Healthy Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Intergroup Trial. Nutrients. 2023 Mar 17;15(6):1459.

6 Kizawa Y, Sekikawa T, Kageyama M, Tomobe H, Kobashi R, Yamada T. Effects of anthocyanin, astaxanthin, and lutein on eye functions: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2021 Jul;69(1):77-90.

7 Keisuke S, Hiroshi Y, Kazuhiro A, et al. Sports Performance Benefits from Taking Natural Astaxanthin Characterized by Visual Acuity and Muscle Fatigue Improvement in Humans. Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 2002;18(9):1085-1100.

8 Nagaki Y, Hayasaka S, Yamada T, et al. Effects of astaxanthin on accommodation, critical flicker fusion, and pattern visual evoked potential in visual display terminal workers. Journal of Traditional Medicines. 2002;19(5):170-173.

9 Kaira N, Ryoko I, Yasuhiro O, Yasuko A, Daisuke N, Chika H, Shizuka S, Yoshiaki S, Masayuki H. Changes in visual function following peroral astaxanthin. Japanese Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology. 2004;58(6):1051-1054.

10 Nanako T, Masayoshi K. Effects of Astaxanthin on Accommodative Recovery. Journal of Clinical Therapeutics & Medicines. 2005;21(4):431-436.

Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, Professor Emiritus of Nutraceutical Science, is a nutritionist, herbalist, writer and educator. For more than 40 years he has educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals, has researched and formulated natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies, and has written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer magazines and peer-reviewed publications. He can be reached at eugenejbruno@gmail.com.



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