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What is Blue Light? What Does Blue Light Do to Your Eyes?

Blue light damage and the benefits of lutein

By Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG)

Everybody has heard about the potential damage that too much UV light does to our bodies, but do you know about the effects of blue light?

What Is Blue Light?

Blue light is a wavelength of light that passes through the lens of our eyes and can make its way back to the macular area of the retina. Blue light is relatively ubiquitous. Sources include sunlight, digital devices (computer, tablets, smart phones, etc.) and artificial light, so it is nearly impossible to avoid.1 2 3 4 5 6

Is Blue Light Bad For Your Eyes?

Short Answer- Yes!

Long Answer- How can blue light damage your eyes? Blue light’s penetration deep into the eye has great potential to damage retinal tissue by inducing free radicals. 7 8 9 10 It turns out that ongoing exposure to blue light (regardless of the source) is a major risk factor for various retinal pathologies. 11 12 13 14 Some research has evaluated the blue-light hazards from many different light sources and reported that the exposure of some of them, for even less than a minute, is hazardous to the retina. 15 This is problematic considering that a significant number of adults spend more than half of their waking hours using a digital device, and children are spending over 6.5 hours daily doing the same exact thing.

What Does Overexposure Of Blue Light Do To Your Eyes?

Blue light overexposure can cause digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome. The symptoms include headache, eye fatigue and other indications of blue light eye strain associated with the daily use of video display terminals on computers and other electronic devices and are common with 3 of more hours/day of exposure.

What can blue light do to your eyes? In one study16 of 477 office workers, the following values of symptom prevalence were found in women and men, respectively:

  • -Eye strain: 50.7% and 32.6%
  • -Disturbed visual acuity: 38.3% and 21.2%
  • -Mucosal dryness and eye-burning: 46.5% and 24.2%

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s something you can do to help protect your eyes from the negative impact of blue light. It involves lutein and zeaxanthin.

What Is Lutein?

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid antioxidant found in some foods. Lutein and zeaxanthin naturally deposit in the macular of the eye, where they absorb blue light, effectively protecting the eye: like an internal pair of sunglasses. However, the average daily U.S. dietary intake of lutein is less than 2mg , and less than 0.5mg for zeaxanthin. That’s far below the 10-20mg of lutein and 2-4mg of zeaxanthin shown in research to be beneficial – but these amounts can easily be obtained in a dietary supplement.

What Are The Benefits Of Lutein?

In studies, lutein and zeaxanthin supplements reduced headaches, eye fatigue and eye strain from blue light.17 18 19 Supplementation also improved various measures of visual function, and even reduced psychological stress, which, apparently, was also impacted by blue light.20 Lutein and zeaxanthin also improved sleep quality and here’s how: your body produces melatonin at night when it gets dark. However, with the continued use of TV and digital devices, melatonin production decreases. Lutein and zeaxanthin help absorb blue light, thereby improving melatonin secretion and promoting healthy sleep.

How Does Lutein Help For Maintaining Eye Health?

Appropriate doses are 10-20mg of lutein and 2-4mg of zeaxanthin. For adults, I recommend 20mg and 4mg of lutein and zeaxanthin respectively. For children, half that amount is good. And yes, children really should be taking this supplement. The fact is that kids born in the 1990’s or later are the first generation to have been exposed to high levels of blue light at an early age, so their collective lifetime of blue light exposure is much greater than that of earlier generations.

Take Away

In much of the prior research I discussed, the form of lutein and zeaxanthin used was a marigold extract called Lutemax2020. A unique aspect to this extract is that it also contains two types of zeaxanthin – regular and meso-zeaxanthin – which research indicates is particularly important. Consequently, the best choice for a lutein and zeaxanthin supplement is one that contains Lutemax2020.


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Gene Bruno is professor of nutraceutical science at Huntington University of Health Sciences and also the senior director of product innovation for Twinlab Consolidation Corporation. Bruno has bachelor's and master's degrees in nutrition, as well as a graduate diploma and master's degree in herbal medicine. As a 40-year veteran of the dietary supplement industry and award-winning formulator, he has developed natural products for dozens of dietary supplement companies; educated and trained natural product retailers and health care professionals; and written articles on nutrition, herbal medicine, nutraceuticals and integrative health issues for trade, consumer and peer-reviewed publications, as well as authoring books and textbook chapters.