Bilberry and Cassis Berry Support Eye Health, Including Night Vision – Invite Health Podcast, Episode 95
Invite Health Podcast, Episode hosted by Jerry Hickey. Ph
My neighbor’s cat can see clearly in my yard at night but I could easily bump into a picnic table; cat’s and other nocturnal predators have great night vision. Many animals have a reflector behind their eye, called the tapetum lucidum. It reflects light back through their retina, magnifying the amount of light so they can see well at night. We don’t have this, so in the dark we bump into things. However, our night vision can be improved.
What is Rhodiopsin?
In our night vision cells called rods, we have a pigment called rhodopsin. This is also known as visual purple that allows us to adjust our vision to dimmer light. There are over 90 million rod cells in the retina of each eye. Rod cells are more sensitive to light than our color sensing cone cells and are almost entirely responsible for night vision. Rod cells have little to do with color vision, accounting for why we see little color in dim light.
Rhodopsin is a pigment that is extremely sensitive to light so it lets us see in the dark. Rhodopsin is made out of retinal – a form of Vitamin A – along with a protein called scotopsin, which contains the reddish pigment. Rhodopsin is deactivated in bright light but is recreated in low light. So this is one reason why the glare from your computer screen can deplete rhodopsin and make your eyes tired. The energetic, fast moving blue light rays of a computer screen create a glare and this makes your eyes and brain tired by reducing the amount of rhodopsin and the concentration of the pigment Lutein in your eyes.
Interestingly, for night vision besides getting sufficient Vitamin A or its precursor beta-carotene in your diet, obtaining the pigments from some berries can also help you see better, and even drive more safely at night.
Vision Friendly Berry: Bilberry
Cassis berry and bilberry both contain a family of pigments called anthocyanidins and anthocyanosides. These are purple, red, and bluish pigments in plants and these berries are loaded with them.
So let’s discuss Bilberry. It grows in Europe and it is a relative of blueberries and cranberries. It is also known as whortleberry and huckleberry. Bilberries have a very high content of bluish-black pigments called anthocyanosides, much more than their relatives, blueberry and cranberry. These pigments are powerful antioxidants that support eye health, including night vision.
There is a story that during World War II, British fighter pilots were given bilberry jam by their flight surgeons to help improve their night vision.
In 2004 Peninsula Medical School in England reviewed studies of bilberry pertaining to night vision. Some of the studies showed no effect but the dose of bilberry was low in these studies and the reviewers wrote that the level of anthocyanosides may have been low. However, in eight studies bilberry improved night vision. I’ve tried it myself. I was writing a book on lowering the risk of cancer through diet and exercise with the director of medical oncology at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in Manhattan. Spending many hours on the old fashioned green screened computer terminal my eyes were exhausted. After several days I could barely focus on the terminal for an hour at a time. This was a problem, I had a deadline and needed to gather my research.
I looked at the early vision-nutrition research and found that at eye donor banks healthy eyes had much higher levels of particular vitamins and minerals than diseased eyes. I then found several clinical trials where nutrients were improving eye health. This started my process of creating vision formulas. I took the vitamins and minerals – zinc, vitamin C and several others – and it helped but then I read about Bilberry. Adding the bilberry made a huge difference. Within a day or two of starting to take bilberry I could read research on my computer without developing eye fatigue for six-hours at a clip and I happily typed away. This research gave me the core nutrients of my first vision formula called Macula Hx®. Years later, the AREDS study showed how accurate I was.
Bilberry shows promise against eye fatigue, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. The study was performed on 281 people who spent a lot of time on video display terminals. The researchers found that a bilberry extract supplement reduced eye fatigue.†
In people with dry eye disease, their tears become very thick preventing the lubrication of their eyes. This results in irritation, pain, and problems seeing. In time it can hurt the eye. Ophthalmologists are seeing more clients with dry eye syndrome these days because people spend so much time looking at computer screens and cellphones. In the study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, a standardized Bilberry supplement improved the symptoms of dry eyes and tear secretion. Standardized in this case means the researchers knew the amount of anthocyanosides in each capsule.†
Importance of Lutein for Eye Health
Team Bilberry up with Lutein for eye health. Lutein is a yellowish-reddish pigment in green leafy vegetables. It is a carotenoid but unlike beta-carotene it is not converted into vitamin A.
In studies, Lutein helps with eye fatigue and supports both daytime and nighttime vision and it also protects your eyes from glare. It’s easier to drive at night with Bilberry and Lutein; you recover faster from the glare of oncoming headlights, can distinguish things ahead of you on the road better in low light, and your eyes are less fatigued.†
Vision Friendly Berry: Bilberry
The second berry is called Cassis berry, also known as Black Currant. The ingredients that support eye health in the Cassis berry are called anthocyanidins. They are different in function than the related anthocyanosides found in Bilberry. Cassis berry is extremely rich in anthocyanidins. The University of Tsukuba Medical School in Japan studied Cassis berry for improving vision in low light. They found that Cassis berry improved adaptation to darkness thus improving night vision. They also found that Cassis berry improved eye fatigue in people who work on computer terminals.†
In a study from the Department of Otolaryngology at Kyoto Red Cross hospital the researchers found that Cassis berry helped with pollen allergy symptoms. Allergy to cedar pollen is common in Japan. The Cassis berry helped prevent the allergy related eye symptoms of itchy eyes, irritation, red eyes, watery eyes, and also conjunctivitis which is inflammation of the transparent covering of the eye due to the allergy. Cassis berry also helped other symptoms such as sneezing and an itchy nose.
Bilberry and Cassis Berry also help protect the eyes from bright light and improve eye health in general helping support the health of the retina, the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye and improve eye fatigue and day-to-day vision.†
Questions about night vision and eye health? Leave a comment below to join the discussion!
Thank you for tuning in to the Invite Health Podcast. You can find all of our episodes for free wherever you listen to podcasts or by visiting www.invitehealth.com/podcast. Make sure you subscribe and leave us a review! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at Invite Health today. We’ll see you next time on another episode of the Invite Health Podcast.