article no: 1954
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Of all our 5 senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch), for most people our organ of sight is the most important and most miraculous, as vision is our primary and most fundamental “guiding sense”. It is through our eyes that we discover and explore the world! It is they that tell us where we are, what is going on around us, and where we are heading for. They, more than any other, therefore also take care of our safety. We look at nature through them, read books with them, view the information that comes to us from the media with the aid of them, and see our loved-ones through them. But our sense of sight is not only important for physical orientation, it also provides us with information on a wide variety of other things - information that strongly influences us in our thinking, actions and deeds. It is not just coincidence that our modern information society is also primarily geared to visual perceptions and stimuli.
But how does sight actually function in us human beings?
Well, as with all the sensory organs, the organ of sight in humans is a complicated structure for perceiving and evaluating stimuli. “Sight” is therefore not just a matter of picking up visual stimuli, but ultimately of also perceiving and processing them. In this context, we distinguish first of all between the purely visual function, i.e. the reception of optical signals, and the subsequent onward transmission of this information via the neurophysiological structures to the brain, where the actual “seeing” ultimately actually occurs.
The process of seeing, i.e. the taking-in of light, begins in our eyes, our “windows” on the world. Entering through the clear surface of the eye (the cornea), it travels first of all through anterior chamber and the pupil to the lens, where it is refracted and bundled and then proceeds through the vitreous body of the eye to the retina. Located on the retina are a large number of visual cells, known as photoreceptors. There are two kinds of photoreceptors, the so-called “rods” and “cones”. These are not only different in size, they also perform different tasks. This soon becomes apparent when we realise that while each human eye has around 120 million rods, it only has some 7 million cones. The rods are optimised for twilight vision. They respond to individual photons, but even the impingement of only 500 photons in one second (which corresponds approximately to twilight) results in saturation. In bright daylight, therefore, all the rods are in a state of saturation and so are not able to contribute to the imaging process. The cones, on the other hand, are markedly less sensitive. They respond to up to about 1 million photons per second, which corresponds to dazzlingly bright daylight. While cones are to be found in all areas of the retina (except in the so-called “blind spot”, i.e. the point where the optic nerve leaves the eye), they are mostly concentrated in the fovea centralis (or “central pit”), an area with a diameter of a mere 0.5 mm or thereabouts. While the density of the cones around the periphery numbers approx. 10,000 per mm2, it rises in the fovea centralis to a density of 140,000 per mm2. This precise spot in the fovea centralis (also known as the “macula lutea”) is the “point of most sharply focused vision”.
It is therefore no coincidence that in nearly all cases, an object is automatically fixed on by the eye in such a way that the parts of the object that need to be viewed precisely are each brought to lie successively in the fovea centralis (so-called peripheral vision) in order to record the contrasts and therefore be able to see the object in sharp focus. Moreover, the innermost area of the fovea centralis, known as the “foveola”, is, for us humans, the reference point for the so-called relative localisation, as it subjectively represents for us the midpoint and oculomotor zero point; at the same time, it subjectively gives us the principal line of sight, i.e. “straight ahead”.
The sensory impressions obtained by the eye from the incoming light are then transmitted via the already mentioned optic nerve (Latin: “nervus opticus”, derived from the Greek word “optikos” = “belonging to sight”) to the brain. The optic nerve, which is also known as the second cranial nerve, thereby forms the middle section of the optic tract. It is around 4.5 cm long and consists of about a million bundled nerve fibres. The nerve tissue is encased in a strong cover, similar to the cerebral membrane that surrounds the brain. Moreover, running more or less through the middle of the optic nerve are the blood vessels (arteriola and venola centralis retinae) that keep the inner retinal layers of the eye supplied with blood and nutrients.
From the so-called diencephalon, where the initial processing of the signals transmitted from the retina via the optic nerve takes place, the signals then continue to what is known as the primary visual cortex. The visual cortex is that part of the cerebral cortex that belongs to the visual system proper, which is what makes visual perception – i.e. actual sight – possible for us in the first place. In humans, as in other primates, too, it is conspicuous that while this area has a relatively high cell density, it is of only relatively low thickness compared to other areas of the brain. Another interesting fact in this context is that in one part of this area of the brain, more or less, the counter-image of the opposite half of the field of vision is represented and shown faithfully (retinotopically), meaning that the points mapped side by side on the retina also lie side by side here. In other words, there is a kind of faithful imaging in the brain.
The information displayed there is then compared with other information stored in our brain (recollections and memory) and in this way, through corresponding link-up with other parts of our brain, formed “into an image”, which is what we ultimately understand by the term “seeing”. An interesting fact in this context is that because of the optics of our eyes, we actually see everything we perceive through them as upside down. However, our brain miraculously corrects this for us by turning the image “the right way up”.
This visual system is therefore a truly exciting and highly sophisticated system that can only be described in the truest sense of the words as fantastic and miraculous.
However, this complex visual system is also supported by other supplemental organs of the eye, including the complete lacrimal apparatus, the eye muscles, the conjunctiva and the eyelids. These all work together in a wonderful way to optimise and assist the functioning of the eyes and also protect them from harmful influences.
- The purpose of the lacrimal apparatus is to supply the front sections of the eye with tear fluid, keep it clean and protect it.
- The eye muscles, in their turn, have the primary task of enabling our eyes to move in different directions and so allow peripheral vision. Even if it appears that our eyes are resting quietly and immovably on particular objects, they nevertheless perform, thanks to our eye muscles, some one to three brief eye movements every second (known as “microsaccades”) to prevent overstimulation of the optic cells. However, the eye muscles not only turn and lift the eyeball; they are also able, by exerting appropriate pressure on the lens (through the so-called “ciliary muscle”), to modify the angle of refraction of the lens and so give our eyes the ability to switch from focussing on the nearby visual range to the distant visual range, and vice versa (“accommodation”).
- The conjunctiva is a kind of mucous membrane that coats the inner surfaces of the eyelid and the outer surface of the eye. The purpose of the mucous covering is to distribute tear fluid over the cornea when blinking and so prevent the cornea from drying out.
- The eyelids are thin folds of tissue, consisting not only of skin but also muscles, glands and connective tissue, with hairs (eyelashes) along their outer edge. The eyelashes clearly indicate what the primary function of the eyelids is, namely to protect the eyes from any form of harmful or undesirable external impact of any kind. They also enable the ingress of light to be wholly (closed eyes) or partially prevented (squinting). This, in conjunction with the iris, also allows the volume of light entering the eyeball to be controlled. Additionally, closing and opening the eyelids (“blinking”) performs the further function of keeping the eye sufficiently moist and clean. Blinking usually takes place involuntarily in the form of a reflex, in most cases around 10 or 12 times per minute. However, the eyelids can also play a major role in our facial expressions (joy, sadness, tiredness etc.).
This brief outline of the functioning of our sense of sight gives a clear indication of the incredible diversity of tasks and safety precautions our body undertakes to enable us to constantly take in the optical influences and process them correctly. But the more pressure we put on our sense of sight, the more we should take care to ensure that it is not overburdened. It is therefore highly important to give this sensitive and complex system sufficient opportunity for rest and regeneration. So all those who subject their eyesight, constantly and with high concentration over a long period of time, to a flood of information, for example people working in offices who stare at computer screens all day or people who drive for a living and have to constantly observe the traffic around them, should give their optical system a short break at regular intervals, with the chance to rest and relax. Dry air and other harmful environmental influences (e.g. cigarette smoke) are also anything but beneficial for healthy functioning of the eyes. But along with a balanced and healthy lifestyle (with sufficient sleep), we can also influence the maintenance of this complex functional system through our nutrition.
And precisely this latter point is of considerable importance, for our eyes, too, and the whole visual system with them, are dependent on being kept supplied with nutrients if they are to function properly. So let us take a look in more detail at what nutrients Mother Nature provides us with, either directly or indirectly, for this purpose:
- Vitamin A
We are all familiar with vitamin A, which is also often commonly referred to as the “eye vitamin”, as vitamin A contributes in particular to preserving normal our eyesight. Vitamin A is, however, also important for other functions within our bodies, such as growth and the functioning and structure of the skin and mucous membranes. As humans, we take in part of the vitamin A we need directly from our food, though our body can also produce this vitamin itself from the carotenes consumed in our food (so-called “provitamin A”).
As the so-called “eye vitamin”, vitamin A also serves as the source for the production of rhodopsin. Rhodopsin itself, which because of its colour is also known as “visual purple”, is one of the visual pigments in our retina, whereby it is mainly present in the rods on our retina and is therefore responsible, among other things for our light/dark vision.
How important the function of vitamin A is in the human body is most clearly revealed if someone has a vitamin A deficiency. One of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency is so-called “night blindness”, a symptom which was already known to the Ancient Egyptians over 3,500 years ago. Other typical symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include drying-out of the lacrymal glands and the conjunctiva, with the formation of horny yellow spots, the occurrence of ulcers on the conjunctiva, intensifying to the point of causing blindness, weakening of the immune system, impairment of bone growth, various kinds of tissue changes (e.g. loss of hair sheen, dryness of the skin and mucous membranes, reduction in sebum and sweat secretion, formation of pinhead-sized nodules or papules), deterioration in general condition (e.g. loss of appetite and loss of weight) and, during pregnancy, malformations of the foetus.
Even if we in Germany have the good fortune to be living in a country where vitamin A should be available in sufficient supply, these symptoms clearly indicate how important the function of vitamin A is in our bodies.
- Lutein und zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin belong to the family of the carotenoids. Carotenoids is the name for a large group of natural pigments that cause yellow to reddish discoloration/pigmentation in humans, animals and plants. In the human body, several well-known carotenoids play an important role, and along with beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, these two orange-yellow carotenoids, namely lutein and zeaxanthin, play an important role.
For these two colour pigments can be found in the human body, among other places in the retina, with the greatest concentration in the fovea centralis (macula lutea). The concentration is so high at this point of “sharpest vision” that because of its orange-yellowy colour it can be clearly seen as a yellow spot, for which reason the macula lutea is also commonly referred to as the “yellow spot”.
As the absorption and processing of high-wave light is known to be most intensive at this point, there is agreement among scientists today that the principal task of lutein and zeaxanthin is to protect the optic cells from damage through short-wave light and the resulting increase in the presence of free radicals (reactive atoms or molecules) which it can cause.
Beta-carotene is probably the best-known carotenoid, especially as it occurs in extremely high concentrations in a plant that is very well-known and will have been familiar to most of us since childhood and that indeed ultimately takes its name from the substance concerned - namely the “carrot”.
We will therefore all probably know - having been informed from early childhood on the basis of traditional experience passed down from generation to generation - that eating a diet that is rich in beta-carotene is generally important for ensuring healthy eyes and optimum vision. This is also the reason behind the well-known joke that eating lots of carrots is why no hare or rabbit has ever been seen wearing glasses.
We naturally know much more today about the tasks and functions of beta-carotene in the human body than people did in the past. Beta-carotene is in fact a so-called “provitamin”, from which the important vitamin A can be formed within the human body. For this reason, beta-carotene is also known as “provitamin A”.
Today, therefore, we also know that it is not the beta-carotene itself but the vitamin A produced from it in the human body that contributes to maintaining our normal vision. Beta-carotene is therefore a wonderful natural nutrient source for our bodies for the production of vitamin A.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs in nature as a yellowish-coloured plant substance. Like vitamin A, riboflavin contributes to preserving normal vision. Additionally, it helps to preserve the cells from oxidative stress. It also contributes to lessening tiredness and fatigue, a fact which is of special interest for people whose eyes tend to tire quickly.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is known for its ability to support the immune system and hence our natural ability to fight off illness. It is also generally recognised that vitamin C is important, and indeed essential, for maintaining the function of all the organs in the human body.
Specifically in relation to the support for our vision, the latest scientific studies suggest, among other things, that vitamin C performs a crucial function in connection with the absorption and transmission of information to the receptors of the cells of the optic nerves and in the brain. It is necessary to understand in this context that there are special receptors in nerve cells and the brain – known as “GABA receptors” – that play an important role in the communication and transmission of information between the nerve cells. To demonstrate whether, and in what way, vitamin C is involved in the regulation of these receptors, the researchers carried out laboratory trials by attaching microelectrodes to the retinal cells of goldfish. These are – according to the researchers - comparable to human retinal cells and have the same biochemical structure. The scientists found that the effect of the retinal GABA receptors was significantly enhanced in the presence of vitamin C. If vitamin C was lacking, on the other hand, a significant drop in GABA receptor function was observable. If no vitamin C was present at all, the receptors even began to break down completely and no longer worked properly. As soon as vitamin C was added once more, the activity of the receptors increased again. The researchers conclude from this that it can therefore be taken as proven that vitamin C plays a vital role in regulating the function of these GABA receptors, which are important in the transmission of information. How precisely this regulation mechanism works, however, is not yet known. One possibility is that vitamin C protects the receptors and cells by capturing free oxygen radicals before they can cause harm to the cells. However, this is so far only a hypothesis and requires further research in order to understand the precise mode of functioning. But leaving that aside, it can be clearly stated that vitamin C performs an elementary function in the absorption and transmission of optical stimuli within the nervous system.
Iron is an essential trace element for the human body, being needed in particular for the normal production of red blood corpuscles and for the normal transport of oxygen throughout the body. This latter function is also highly important in connection with our vision, as many a mountaineer will doubtless have experienced at first hand when climbing high mountains. For as the air becomes thinner with rising altitude, and hence the amount of oxygen contained in it decreases, this also immediately impacts on the mountain climber’s eyesight, which rapidly becomes poorer and is accompanied by various visual impairments, such as temporary blurring of vision, flickering in front of the eyes, increased sensitivity to light, etc. Another interesting fact in this context is that iron also acts as an important biocatalyst in our bodies in contributing to normal cognitive functioning. Additionally, iron helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue.
Zinc is completely indispensable for our health. As a trace element, it plays a role in a large number of metabolic reactions in our bodies, being involved in the functioning of some 300 enzymes in our cell metabolism and being contained in 50 enzymes.
We know today that among other things, zinc contributes to preserving our normal vision. Zinc also plays a part in normal vitamin A metabolism as it is involved in the metabolisation of beta-carotene and other provitamins into vitamin A. But zinc also contributes to normal protein synthesis and normal cognitive functioning. And finally, it also contributes to the normal functioning of the immune system and to protecting the cells from oxidative stress.
- Other traditionally used natural substances
There are a large number of other substances available from Mother Nature’s garden which are traditionally reputed to have a wide range of positive effects in supporting healthy vision, although regrettably there is still a lack of supplementary and comprehensive scientific studies to back up this traditional knowledge. Even the European Commission, which was supposed to produce a list of the various claimed effects and intended to do so, has still not made any final decision on this and has continued to put the claims applied for concerning a large number of herbal substances – which are also known as “botanicals” - “on hold”.
One of these groups of natural substances are those contained predominantly in fish, though also in vegetable oils such as linseed or algal oil, namely the omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids which the body is not able to produce for itself. They are referred to as “essential” because they are indeed essential for preserving health. The hypothesis has been put forward in this context that because of their effect as antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids also act positively on our natural visual faculty. One thing that is known for certain today, however, is that the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is produced in the body from omega-3 fatty acid contributes to preserving normal vision. It should be said, though, that this effect of DHA can only be expected from foodstuffs with a DHA content of at least 40 mg from an intake of the foodstuff concerned of 100 g and per 100 kcal. Moreover, the positive effect concerned only occurs with a daily intake of 250 mg DHA.
Eyebright (Euphrasia), a plant that grows in the meadows of central Europe, has been in use since at least the 16th century, and indeed is still in use today, for supporting healthy functioning of the eyes. Eyebright was mostly drunk as an infusion, though it was sometimes also applied to the eyes as a lotion.
Another remedy that has been known and loved for generations are the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree, which are claimed to support the normal blood supply to the cells and body tissues via the small capillary vessels.
During the 2nd World War, airmen in the Royal Air Force were given bilberries (blueberries) to eat before embarking on their night-time missions as the fruits allegedly helped them to see better at night, and blueberries are still claimed today to stop the eyes from quickly becoming tired and to support the production of rhodopsin in in the rods on the retina, which are responsible for the light/dark vision of our eyes.
Cranberries and pumpkin powder are also claimed to have a similar effect to bilberries/blueberries.
In the years 2004 and 2005, various studies were published by researchers from Japan which indicated that taking 6 mg of the natural carotenoid astaxanthin per day supports the natural accommodation of the eye. Accommodation is, of course, the natural dynamic adjustment of the refraction of the eye for the purpose of focussing on moving objects. In practice, this means that an object located at any distance between the optical near point and far point, which can vary individually from person to person, is always captured clearly in the retinal plane, despite changes in the distance.
Rhodiola rosea, hericium and Mucuna pruriens (the latter known by various common names including “velvet bean”) are claimed to support the normal regenerative capacity of the nerves and hence the normal transmission of stimuli. These plants are also alleged to contribute to normal powers of concentration and normal mental/psychological functioning.
But simply drinking plenty of pure water has also been recommended for generations as a means of fostering healthy eyesight as the eyes, in particular, need a great deal of moisture.
But there are also many other natural substances available from Mother Nature’s garden that are claimed to have a wide range of positive and exciting effects in support of our complex and wonderful visual system. We therefore beg for your understanding if we are not able to list them all here completely and in detail. For anyone wishing to inform themselves of all the different natural substances that exist and their possible effects, we recommend that they consult the relevant specialist reports in the appropriate media.
One crucial fact is that with a healthy lifestyle and a balanced and varied diet, we can do a great deal to maintain the healthy functioning of the most important of our senses, namely our natural eyesight.
For all those who wish, through their nutrition, to provide additional targeted support for their natural eyesight and help keep it healthy, we have specifically developed our “Eyelight Premium” product. The substances contained in this product, namely vitamin A and riboflavin, contribute to preserving normal vision.
Our predecessor products, which were launched on the market many years ago (Eyelight and Eyelight complete) and, like Eyelight Premium, contain not only vitamin A and riboflavin but also various carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene as well as the trace element zinc, enjoyed great popularity among our customers and were one of the mainstays of our product range. However, we are pleased to report that we have further refined and improved this bestselling product with a new formulation that is now being sold in the form of Eyelight Premium, and that any of our customers have confirmed to us that this is the best Eyelight product they have ever encountered.
Even the list of ingredients in the new formulation is exciting and nothing short of unique. Thus, for example, we have refined the former, familiar Natura Vitalis Eyelight Complex with specific additional substances, and also supplemented and optimised it with the trace element iron. As iron is not only helpful in supporting normal vision but also normal cognitive functioning, it also supports the signal processing via the nervous system, which is important for our ability to see.
Along with the familiar substances ginkgo biloba leaf extract, astaxanthin, algal oil extract and eyebright, we have also refined our Eyelight Premium formulation with substances obtained from rhodiola rosea and hericium and added mucuna pruriens (velvet bean) as the finishing touch.
So the new Eyelight Premium not only works positively on the entire eye – it additionally supports the nerves and thus helps the signal processing function in the brain. We are therefore absolutely convinced that you, too, will soon “see” that this is the best Eyelight that ever was.
2 capsules contain: Vitamin A - 550 µg RE = 68*, Riboflavin - 1.4 mg = 100*, Zinc - 11 mg = 110*, Iron - 6.4 mg = 45*, Lutein - 8 mg, Zeaxanthin - 0.3 mg, Beta-Carotene - 2.4 mg, Astaxanthin - 0.25 mg, Mucuna Pruriens Bean Extract – 120 mg, Hericium Extract – 90 mg, Eyebright – 60 mg, Rhodiola Rosea Root Extract – 50 mg, Algal Oil Extract (Schizochytrium sp.) – 40 mg, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract – 20 mg, Other Plant Substances – 42 mg
* = % of the reference amount (NRV) based on the Food Information Regulations.
Recommended daily use: Please take daily 1 capsule in the morning and in the evening with a sufficient quantity of liquid.
Information for diabetics: 2 capsules contain 0,06 bread unit.
Please note: Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a well-balanced and varied diet as well as a healthy life-style.