With high projections for eye health supplements market, innovation and research are active
Looking to the future of the eye health supplements market, companies are feeling overwhelmingly positive. Globally, sales of eye health supplements exceeded US$1.5 billion in 2019, and the market is expected to maintain a CAGR of 6.1% through 2027.1
Consumers are increasingly looking for effective natural health products that can reduce eye strain and promote eye health. The increase in the use of digital screens and the proliferation of virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic are major drivers of the eye health market these days, according to market analysts at Grand View Research. With the industry growing so rapidly, brands able to capture even a small market share will find commercial success. For those looking to develop new products, here are some of the most promising recent advances in eye health ingredients.
Capsanthin supports photostress recovery
The carotenoid capsanthin, derived from Annual capsicum, has attracted press in recent years for its ability to reduce intraocular pressure in animal studies. Now, research shows that this ingredient can also be an effective herbal remedy for dry eyes.
Sevanti Mehta, chairman of Unibar Corp. (Houston, TX), states that Unibar recently completed an animal study on capsanthin that showed promising results. The study, which is not yet published, examined the effectiveness of capsanthin in reducing symptoms of benzalkonium chloride-induced dry eye in Wistar rats. Mehta says the study results were later confirmed by gene expression studies. Although the results are preliminary, Mehta says Unibar looks forward to sharing the full data later in 2022.
While the application of capsanthin as a dry eye remedy continues to be studied, other research has more clearly demonstrated the ingredient’s other benefits for eye health. Unibar’s patent-pending CapsiClear, a naturally derived capsanthin ingredient standardized to 50% capsanthin, launched in 2020, is backed by two clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness in promoting photostress recovery and increasing optical density macular pigment (MPOD).
For Mehta, however, the possibilities of capsanthin and nutraceuticals for eye health go even further. “I’m excited to see the innovative ways the industry is finding to improve vision health, like how the gut can influence better eye health outcomes,” says Mehta. “I look forward to future research on how nutraceuticals can support specific eye functions, such as night vision.”
Postbiotics enter eye health
Postbiotics are gaining traction in several new applications, and now they’ve found an opportunity in eye health. Maria Stanieich, marketing manager for Kyowa Hakko USA (New York), says a growing body of evidence points to a link between gut health, immune health and eye health.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group clinical trial from 20202 investigated the EyeMuse ingredient from Kirin Holdings (Tokyo), launched in 2021. Kirin Holdings is the parent company of Kyowa Hakko. The trial, sponsored by Kirin Holdings, evaluated the effects of EyeMuse, which contains a patented strain of Lacticaseibacillus paracasei, in 88 healthy Japanese adults aged 35-50 with eye strain. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a capsule containing the postbiotic ingredient EyeMuse or a placebo capsule containing 200 mg cornstarch (n=44), daily for 8 weeks. Subjects were evaluated on tests of Critical Flicker Frequency (CFF), High Frequency Component Values (HFC-1), Miosis Rate, Eye Strain, and Visual Analog Scale of Fatigue and Mood, at baseline and after 4 and 8 weeks.
Subjects receiving EyeMuse reported greater increases in CFF scores than those receiving placebo after 4 weeks, but greater decreases after 8 weeks. The EyeMuse group also had lower intraocular pressure than the placebo group after 4 and 8 weeks. The study authors determined that EyeMuse improved parameters of eye fatigue and reduced reports of blurred vision compared to placebo.
Modern technology is a big driver of eye health ingredient innovation, says Stanieich. Consumers are increasingly looking for eye health supplements that neutralize blue light exposure and lessen the harmful effects of too much screen time.
“Eye health is becoming a priority for players and young professionals,” says Stanieich. “Virtual learning, digital work environments and increasingly technology-dependent multitasking are driving demand for scientifically proven and clinically safe ingredients to fortify and maintain eye health.”
Newly launched remedy for dry eyes
Dry eye is a common consumer complaint. Data provided by OmniInsights, the consumer research arm of OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ), shows that Google search traffic for “dry eye syndrome” doubled from December 2010 to July 2020. Akhil Bajaj, category manager for vision and cognitive health at OmniActive Health Technologies, says dry eye affects between 5% and 15% of the US population.
The ubiquity of dry eyes prompted OmniActive to launch its branded ingredient Nutritears in 2021. Nutritears is a patent-pending combination of vitamin D3, curcuminoids, and lutein and zeaxanthin isomers designed to be included in formats such as capsules, gummies and chews. OmniActive created Nutritears using its Integrated Actives platform, which allows for the formulation of multiple active ingredients in a smaller, more concentrated dose.
“OmniInsights consumer research shows that there is an unmet need for a product like Nutritears,” says Bajaj. “Our survey found that nearly three-quarters of consumers consider dietary supplement solutions for occasional dry eye to be just as effective or more effective than current therapies such as eye drops.”
Prenatal nutrition influences the eye-brain connection
Emerging research has already demonstrated a link between eye health and brain health. But now studies are establishing the role of prenatal nutrition in the eye-brain connection.
A 2021 prospective cohort study3 involving 1,580 mother-child pairs examined the effects of dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin by mothers during pregnancy on children’s cognitive abilities. Mothers consumed an average of 2.6 mg/day of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin during the first and second trimesters. The study, which was sponsored by Kemin (Des Moines, IA), looked at data that had been collected through Project Viva. Project Viva, a Harvard University study supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, followed mother-child pairs from pregnancy through middle childhood. Study visits took place during the first and second trimesters and at 6 months, 3 years and 7-8 years of age.
At baseline and at first and second trimester visits, mothers completed a 166-item food frequency questionnaire. The study authors calculated the mothers’ lutein and zeaxanthin intake from their diets using a Harvard University nutrient composition database. The 6-month visit involved a visual recognition memory (VRM) test involving new and accustomed stimuli. At the 3-year visit, the children were assessed on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III) and the Wide Range Assessment of Visual Motor Abilities. At the age 7-8 test, the children took the Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test for overall intelligence and the WRAVMA drawing subtest to measure visual-motor skills.
This study found that at age three, higher maternal lutein/zeaxanthin intake was associated with better child scores on the WRAVMA drawing subtest, indicating better visual-motor integration. . This association persisted even after adjusting for age, race, education, marital status, and socioeconomic status.
Growing consumer demand for brain health products is opening up new niches for eye health ingredients, says Tyler Holstein, Kemin’s global product manager, carotenoids. The eye-brain connection, he says, makes eye health supplements particularly appealing to gamers.
“We have seen an increased demand for lutein due to the amount of research on its cognitive benefits as well as its already established benefits for eye health,” says Holstein. “Some of the new products launched in the gamer market that contain lutein are positioned to help consumers protect their eyes and improve their cognitive abilities.”
One of the ingredients in one of these gamer-branded product lines is Kemin-branded FloraGLO Lutein, a free-form lutein ingredient designed for easy absorption. Iovate Health Products International has incorporated FloraGLO Lutein into various gamer products offered through its XP Sports esports brand, including its Boost Energy Drink, Zero Lag Mental Focus and Eye Health Capsules, and XP Sports Gummies.
Much more to come
Recent advances in research have uncovered various opportunities for several classes of eye health ingredients. These ingredients are being developed to support targeted functions or to meet the needs of specific demographics, creating niche opportunities for specialty brands.
Several popular eye health ingredients, like lutein and zeaxanthin, are also effective brain health ingredients, and the link between eye health and brain health is also opening up new avenues for marketers. Whether it’s prenatal nutrition, dry eye or biohacking for gamers, eye health brands have plenty of opportunities to capitalize on niche products.
- Grand View Research Report. “Eye Health Supplements Market Size, Share and Trend Analysis Report by Ingredient Type, by Indication (AMD, Cataract, Dry Eye Syndrome, Inflammation), by Formulation, by Region and Segment Forecast, 2020-2027.” Published in September 2020.
- Yamazaki T et al. “Lactobacillus paracasei KW3110 suppresses inflammatory stress-induced premature cellular senescence of human retinal pigment epithelium cells and reduces ocular disorders in healthy humans. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, flight. 21, no. 14 (July 18, 2020): 5091
- Mahmassani HA et al. “Maternal intake of lutein and zeaxanthin during pregnancy is positively associated with offspring verbal intelligence and behavioral regulation in middle childhood in the Project Viva cohort.” The Food Diary, flight. 151, no. 3 (11 Mar 2021): 615-627