These days I see quite a few people complaining of the symptoms of asthenopia. Wait a second you say! What the heck is asthenopia, and how do I know if I have it? Well, first of all, it is extremely common. So you might very well have it. So common that when a 2013 study looked at 1,500 college students they found that 57% of them were complaining about the symptoms. And asthenopia gets even more common as we get older. But here's the good news. There is plenty you can do about it to both prevent it and improve it.
Asthenopia is a condition of the eyes that occurs when the eyes fatigue or tire easily. It leads to decreased night vision, eye discomfort, dimness of vision, and headaches. Officially, it is caused by overuse of the eyes for example on computers all day long. It also can be caused by incorrect refraction (you need better glasses!). But as you will see, there is more to this story. Because studies are now showing that many cases, perhaps as many as 73.3% are caused by a deficiency of something called anthocyanins.
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Anthocyanins are the primary phytochemicals found in bilberries. For years scientists have known that there is something in bilberries that is good for vision. And since the main phytochemicals in bilberries are the anthocyanins, it is likely that they are responsible for the benefits. So recently researchers conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind study to find out. I think the results are amazing.
The study looked at 60 men and women with asthenopia and myopia requiring corrective lenses. Myopia, also called nearsightedness, is when you can see nearby objects clearly, but faraway objects appear blurry. All of the subjects were similar in terms of age and vision. Before and after the study, they answered a questionnaire about their symptoms and were also tested for night vision function. Then the researchers gave half of them a 100 mg tablet containing 85% anthocyanins twice a day. The other half got the placebo. The study went on for four weeks. Here's what they found after only four weeks.
Of these 60 participants, 73.3% of the anthocyanins group showed an improvement in their symptoms. How did the placebo group do? Only one showed improvement. But it gets even better. The night vision testing showed that the anthocyanins group improved 241% while the placebo group declined 34%. The authors of the study said it well, "The present data show that the administration of anthocyanoside oligomer [mixed anthocyanins] appears to improve subjective symptoms and objective contrast sensitivity [night vision] in myopia subjects with asthenopia."
Bilberries (also known as European blueberries, whortleberries, huckleberries, and blaeberries) are one of the richest natural sources of anthocyanins. It's the anthocyanins that give bilberries their blue/black color and high antioxidant content. And they are believed to be the key nutrients responsible for the many reported health benefits of bilberries and other berries. Although bilberries are known most commonly for improving vision, research has shown that they can chelate excess iron out of your body, lower blood sugar, have anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering effects, and lower oxidative stress. That means that they have potential value in preventing just about any disease there is. This includes cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. And here's some really great news.
The total anthocyanin content of bilberries is extremely high – generally in the range of 300-700 mg in three-and-a-half ounces. So you could easily get the amount used in this study if you only ate about 3 ounces a day. But that's not the whole story.
Remember the study I mentioned above that looked at the occurrence of asthenopia in college students. The authors of that study discovered that users of computers were 21% more likely to develop asthenopia than non-users. Oh, oh – that's me! I'm going to add bilberries to my list of supplements to take immediately. I'm already starting to show some decline in my night vision. They also found out that getting enough sleep decreased the risk by 14% and a high intake of green leafy vegetables decreased it by 11%.
If you can't find fresh bilberries you can buy bilberry extract capsules. Advanced Bionutritionals has a formula called Advanced Vision Formula. It not only contains bilberry extract, but it also contains very healthy doses of the phytochemicals astaxanthin, zeanthin, and lutein. All of these phytochemicals have also been shown to improve and protect your vision as you get older.
To get the same amount of anthocyanins that was used in the study, you would need to take 3 tablets, twice a day. That may seem like a lot, but remember that the improvement was seen after only four weeks. So there is a strong likelihood that after a few months you would be able to reduce the dose and still maintain the good effects.
Yours for better health,