Spotlight on eye health ingredients

11 Feb 2020

The market for eye health ingredients and products has been rising over the past few years, as an ageing global population has coincided with increased consumer interest in nutrition-based prevention of age-related conditions.

The market for eye health ingredients and products has been rising over the past few years, as an ageing global population has coincided with increased consumer interest in nutrition-based prevention of age-related conditions.

Spotlight on eye health ingredients
Natural ingredients for healthy eyes are in particularly high demand

While foods and supplements for joints, bones, muscles and cognitive health have taken off, so have those for eye health, albeit on a smaller scale. According to a report from Global Market Insights (GMI), supplements intended for eye health accounted for 4% of the market in 2016, and it predicts that ingredients from natural sources will grow at about 6% a year to 2024.

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are commonly used in eye health products as they are present in the inner part of the retina (the macula) and protect the eye from UV damage. However, there are hundreds of other carotenoids found in nature, and although they are not found in the eye itself, studies suggest they could be beneficial for eye health too.

Companies like OmniActive Health Technologies, Kemin and DSM are focused on the role of carotenoids for eye health, and lutein and zeaxanthin in particular, while Lycored touts the benefits of its lycopene carotenoid ingredient, derived from tomatoes. Algatech says its astaxanthin ingredient, a carotenoid from algae, supports eye health and is suitable for use in a range of supplement formats, as well as in functional foods and beverages.

Other popular ingredients include vitamin A, which has been shown to have potential in preventing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and bilberry extracts, which are commonly thought to improve night vision and improve retinal health, although clinical evidence is lacking. Still, the latter’s natural credentials have contributed to strong growth and this looks set to continue – as long as suppliers can compete with other ingredients on cost.

Pharmactive Biotech Products supplies a saffron extract that it claims increased blood flow to the eyes and protects retinal cells from damage, a factor in the development of glaucoma. Some studies have also suggested that omega-3 fatty acids could be beneficial for eye health, although more research is needed.

According to GMI, the United States accounts for most new product launches in the eye health category – about 45% of the global total – due to the general popularity of dietary supplements in the US market. Europe accounts for about 26% of new introductions, but the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing, and the eye health market there is expected to accelerate, especially on the back of increasing disposable income and interest in healthy lifestyles in China, Japan and India.

In the meantime, experts continue to recommend regular eye tests, adequate UV protection, not smoking (or quitting), exercising and eating a balanced diet as the most important measures to prevent age-related macular degeneration. However, nutrition-related options continue to appeal to consumers, many of whom are attracted by the idea of using their diet to prevent ill-health rather than waiting for health conditions to develop before seeking treatment.

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