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As any parent knows, digital devices are an inescapable part of daily life for kids and teens. And as with many aspects of life, while some digital device use is necessary and beneficial, too much can expose kids to an overload of blue light. However, good nutrition and if need be, supplement use, in combination with screen time limits, can be a solution.

The Role of Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are deposited near the center of the back of the eye. Studies on lutein and zeaxanthin are showing a positive impact: acting as antioxidants in the eye, lutein and zeaxanthin block blue light from damaging important cells. Although lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally found in our diet, the nutrients are found mainly in vegetables that kids (and adults) do not eat in sufficient quantities. In fact, one study reported children eating less than 1 milligram of lutein and 0.1 milligram of zeaxanthin from diet.2 Recommendations for kids ages 8 to 12 range from 3 to 6 milligrams of lutein per day, although country-specific regulations differ. A diet low in lutein and zeaxanthin leaves eyes less protected from blue light. To reach the recommended levels, supplements may help fill the gap.

Digital Eye Strain and Sleep

In a recent US survey, 71 percent of parents reported that their 6 to 12-year children suffered from digital device overexposure symptoms such as eye strain, headaches and tired eyes.3 Over three-fourths of parents reported interest in a supplement for their child to support eye health.

In addition to negative eye exposure, blue light can also disrupt sleep.  Studies show blue light, more than any other wavelength of light, suppresses natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin.4

Tips for Parents

  • Because lutein and zeaxanthin are best absorbed with some dietary fat, kids and adults should take lutein and zeaxanthin supplements with meals which contain fats. Examples of fat sources include butter or vegetables oils, low-fat or full fat dairy, meats or chicken and nuts.
  • Parents can remind kids to take breaks from their devices to minimize eye strain. Screen time rules should include television, tablets, computers and phones.
  • Set rules for limiting device use before bed time.
  • Encourage, and show an example by eating, food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin such as leafy green vegetables, broccoli, avocadoes, eggs and corn. 

References: 

1. Tosini G et al. (2016). Mol Vis. 24: 22:61-2272.

2. Johnson et al. (2010) J Am Diet Assoc;110(9):1357-62.

3. DSM/Kemin Consumer Research, USA, 2018.

4. Holzman D. (2010) What’s in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light. Environ Health Perspect. Jan; 118(1): A22–A27.