The market for eye supplements just got a little more sophisticated. A recent study by the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, found higher rates of eye disease among Latinos than non-Hispanic whites. The study was one piece of the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES), begun in 2000 as the most comprehensive look to date at Latinos and vision.
The study tracked 4,600 Latinos, mostly of Mexican descent and most more than 40 years old. Results were compared to statistical data already at hand for comparable white populations and other ethnic groups, and researchers found that, over a four-year period, Latinos developed the highest rates of visual impairment and blindness. Evidence also suggested higher rates of diabetic retinopathy and certain forms of cataracts, but lower comparable rates of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Said NEI Director Paul Sieving, MD, PhD in a statement: “These data have significant public health implications and present a challenge for eye care providers to develop programs to address the burden of eye disease in Latinos.”
LALES has also uncovered alarming statistics about untreated eye disease among Latinos—more than 60% goes undiagnosed—and lack of access to healthcare seems a clear cause. Genetics, diet and lifestyle remain additional possible causes, and future reports from LALES should shed more light on specific risk factors.
NBJ Bottom Line
Companies in the eye health category should find business value in targeted demographic studies such as LALES. As the science gets more specific, so can the marketing, product development and the real bottom line—how effective a particular supplement can be at helping different demographic groups. LALES sheds light on a specific ethnic population with above-average rates of a specific condition, but there are other forces at work bringing nuance and sophistication to eye health.
Chrysantis sponsored a study at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago to investigate the different properties of zeaxanthin and lutein in treating patients with AMD. Results suggest zeaxanthin could strengthen the macula and improve driving performance in ways that lutein alone cannot, presenting another example of the detailed work underway in this category. Eye health is one of the fastest-growing condition-specific dietary supplement categories, and both the science and supplements are getting more sophisticated at delivering it to consumers.
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