Life Extension Magazine®
Couple wearing sunglasses to reduce risks of dry eye syndrome

Berry Extract Eases Dry Eyes

Dry eye prevalence is increasing from computer screen exposure and normal aging. New studies reveal maqui berry extract can improve dry-eye-symptom scores up to 72%.

By Michael Downey, Health & Wellness Author.

Most people view dry eyes as an annoyance.

Left untreated, this condition can lead to serious infection and visual impairment.1,2

Dry eye prevalence is increasing and affects up to 34% of people worldwide.3

Too much time staring at a smartphone, computer, or tablet, increases the risk for dry eyes, as can air pollution, air conditioning, wearing contact lenses, and allergies.2,4-10

Over-the-counter eye drops, or “artificial tears,” provide relief but aren’t able to address the underlying causes.11

A prescription drug for dry eye syndrome can cause side effects. These include burning, itching, stinging, redness, and blurred vision12—the very dry eye symptoms you’re trying to eliminate!

Scientists have found a berry extract that boosts our own tear production. This helps combat dry eyes the natural way.

An initial pilot study showed that taking an oral extract of maqui berry leads to a 72% improvement in dry-eye-symptom scores.13

A new double-blind, placebo-controlled study—the gold standard in medical research—confirms that maqui berry extract improves dry eye conditions, with rapid and long-lasting effects.14

The Causes of Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome occurs for one of two reasons:15

1. Our tear glands don’t produce enough tears, or

2. Our tears are poor quality, which makes them evaporate too quickly or fail to spread evenly over the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye).

It’s become an increasingly common condition in the U.S. and worldwide.8,13,16

Key risk factors are aging, and use of computers, smart phones, and tablets. Dry eye is more prevalent in women.4-7,10

Some of the other common risk factors include:2,4-10

  • Allergies,
  • Air-conditioning use,
  • Medications such as antidepressants and high blood pressure drugs,
  • Autoimmune disorders,
  • Flat-screen TV viewing,
  • Wearing contact lenses,
  • Vision-correcting or cataract surgery, and
  • Excessive ultraviolet light exposure.
plants growing in a beaker

What You Need to Know

Banish Dry Eyes

  • Dry eye syndrome is increasingly common, causing burning, eye fatigue, and predisposition to cornea damage and reduced quality of life.

  • Commercial drug-store eye drops and lubricants have only a temporary effect and can have bothersome side effects.

  • An extract of the maqui berry, taken orally, has been shown to stimulate healthy tear production, improving dry eye symptoms.

  • A placebo-controlled human study has confirmed this extract’s ability to offer a safe and effective treatment for dry eye syndrome.

Potential Eye Damage

Woman holding kale

Dry eyes cause stinging, itching, inflammation, light-sensitivity, distraction, and difficulty focusing, which can reduce quality of life. Studies show that eye irritation is associated with lower scores on standard mental-health scales.17,18

Additionally, if left untreated, there’s a risk of vision impairment over time.

That’s because tears are essential for protecting both the cornea and the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that lines the eyeball and inner surfaces of the eyelids.8

Tears provide lubrication and wash away foreign matter.19 They help heal scratches and other injuries to the cornea or conjunctiva. With untreated dry eyes, injuries linger, which can ultimately impair vision.19,20

Tears also carry nutrients and antimicrobial defenses that help prevent eye infections, which can damage sight.19

Dry eye sufferers usually turn to over-the-counter eye drops. When these “artificial tears” don’t work well enough, many individuals try expensive prescription eye lubricants21 that still fail to deliver effective and lasting relief.

Restasis®, a prescription drug specifically approved by the FDA for dry eye syndrome, can cause burning, itching, stinging, redness, and blurred vision—the very symptoms it’s designed to eliminate.12

The only true solution for dry eyes is to increase production and quality of natural tears.

Importance of Tears’ Quality and Quantity

People with dry eyes generally don’t produce enough tears, their tears evaporate too quickly, or, most critically, they have a low quality of tear film.

Tear film contains three layers: oil, water, and mucus.11

The surface of the eye can be lubricated, nourished, and protected with the tiny amount of tears normally produced each day, about 1 mL to 3 mL per eye.13

If the water element (the middle layer) evaporates too rapidly, the remaining tear fluid becomes excessively concentrated,22-24 which, in turn, impairs many of the tear film’s critical functions.

Maqui Berry Restores Tears

Maqui berries, dark purple fruit native to regions of Chile and Argentina, have long been valued for their free radical scavenging and anti-inflammatory properties.25-27

Several years ago, researchers discovered that, when taken orally, a maqui berry extract boosts production of the body’s own natural tears.13

This delivers relief for dry, irritated eyes, while also helping to protect the eyes from long-term damage.

The active compounds in maqui are pigments called delphinidins. In a preclinical study they showed the ability to protect the eyes by:28

  • Shielding eye structures from constant exposure to harmful free radicals, and

  • Inhibiting damage from light stimulation to the eyes’ delicate tissues, such as the photoreceptor cells, that convert light into signals sent to the brain.

In a preclinical model, delphinidins also prevented low-grade injury to the lacrimal glands, which produce the water layer of tears. This safeguards and restores their ability to produce natural, high-quality tears.29

Researchers created a rat model of dry eye by suppressing the animals’ blink reflex, which led to evaporation of tears and corneal damage.

When one group of the rats was pretreated with maqui berry extract, it stopped the loss of tears and prevented corneal damage.29

Pilot Study

In 2014, researchers performed a human study on the eye-protecting effects of maqui berry extract.13

They enlisted 13 participants with moderate eye dryness, which was evaluated by the Schirmer’s test.13 This is a way to assess the amount of fluid produced by the tear glands and whether it is sufficient to keep the eyes moist.30

There was no placebo group for this small pilot study. Participants took either 30 mg or 60 mg of maqui berry extract daily for 60 days.

Both dosage groups had an approximately 50% improvement in tear production after 30 days. After 60 days, the lower-dose group’s improvement declined, but the 60 mg group sustained a 45% improvement in tear production.13

Patients also completed the Dry Eye-Related Quality-of-Life Score test. This is a questionnaire that consists of six questions about various “bothersome ocular symptoms” and nine questions about their “impact on daily life,” including the mental aspect.

The overall degree of impairment to quality of life is calculated as a score—with a lower score indicating a greater quality of life.

Both dosing groups had a total composite score—eye and daily-life symptoms—of about 40 at the outset of the study. Scores for both groups fell quickly after treatment with maqui berry extract began, indicating a quality-of-life improvement.

Patients taking 30 mg of maqui berry extract daily experienced a reduction improvement) to a score of almost 22 (from a baseline of 40) after 30 days. However, their score didn’t drop much further by day 60.13

The score for patients taking 60 mg of maqui berry extract daily dropped to almost 27 after 30 days.

In contrast to the lower (30 mg) dose group, the dry eye score of those taking 60 mg of maqui continued to fall after 60 days to an astoundingly low 11 points. This constitutes a 72% improvement in dry eye-related quality-of-life symptoms after just two months!13

New Clinical Trial

plants growing in a beaker

More recently, scientists conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.14

It confirmed that 60 mg of maqui berry extract significantly:14

  • Reduced eye dryness,
  • Alleviated eye fatigue, and
  • Improved quality-of-life symptoms.

The team selected 74 healthy participants, aged 30 to 60, who experienced moderate eye dryness and eye fatigue. As in the pilot study, eye dryness was evaluated with the Schirmer’s test.14

Every day for four weeks, 37 subjects took a placebo, while the other 37 took 60 mg of maqui berry extract.

Both groups started with the same degree of eye dryness. After treatment, however, the group that took the maqui extract showed significantly higher production of tear fluid.

As a result, the maqui group experienced alleviation of eye dryness and reduced eye fatigue.14

This clinical trial confirms that taking 60 mg of maqui berry extract daily can help reduce eye dryness and alleviate eye fatigue.

Relief for Dry Eye Symptoms

This recent study also looked at quality-of-life symptoms caused by dry eyes.

Using the Dry Eye-Related Quality-of-Life Score test and a Visual Analog Scale test, subjects specified their level of agreement with a number of statements about their symptoms.14

Following the four-week treatment period, the Dry Eye-Related Quality-of-Life Score test showed that the maqui group had substantially improved total values for bothersome ocular symptoms, compared to the placebo group.

The Visual Analog Scale test showed that the maqui group experienced significant improvements in eye fatigue.14

For those who suffer from dry eyes and eye fatigue, this means there is new hope for a safe and effective way to naturally relieve these symptoms in just a few weeks.

Summary

Dry eyes are an increasingly common condition, especially among aging people and computer and smartphone users.

A deficient amount or poor quality of tears causes eye irritation and fatigue and may damage eye tissue and impair vision over time.

An extract of the maqui berry has been shown to soothe eyes from the inside out by stimulating the production of healthy tears.

Two clinical trials have confirmed this extract’s ability to restore tear production, reversing key symptoms and risks of dry eye syndrome and improving quality of life.


If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

  1. Ding J, Sullivan DA. Aging and dry eye disease. Exp Gerontol. 2012 Jul;47(7):483-90.
  2. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371863. Accessed November 4, 2019.
  3. Messmer EM. The pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of dry eye disease. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2015 Jan 30;112(5):71-81; quiz 2.
  4. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/dryeye/dryeye. Accessed March 7, 2017.
  5. Parihar JK, Jain VK, Chaturvedi P, et al. Computer and visual display terminals (VDT) vision syndrome (CVDTS). Med J Armed Forces India. 2016 Jul;72(3):270-6.
  6. Yazici A, Sari ES, Sahin G, et al. Change in tear film characteristics in visual display terminal users. Eur J Ophthalmol. 2015 Mar-Apr;25(2):85-9.
  7. Porcar E, Pons AM, Lorente A. Visual and ocular effects from the use of flat-panel displays. Int J Ophthalmol. 2016;9(6):881-5.
  8. Gayton JL. Etiology, prevalence, and treatment of dry eye disease. Clin Ophthalmol. 2009;3:405-12.
  9. Bron AJ, Tomlinson A, Foulks GN, et al. Rethinking dry eye disease: a perspective on clinical implications. Ocul Surf. 2014 Apr;12(2 Suppl):S1-31.
  10. Foulks GN. Pharmacological management of dry eye in the elderly patient. Drugs Aging. 2008;25(2):105-18.
  11. Moon SW, Hwang JH, Chung SH, et al. The impact of artificial tears containing hydroxypropyl guar on mucous layer. Cornea. 2010 Dec;29(12):1430-5.
  12. Available at: https://www.drugs.com/sfx/restasis-side-effects.html. Accessed November 4, 2019.
  13. Hitoe S, Tanaka J, Shimoda H. MaquiBright standardized maqui berry extract significantly increases tear fluid production and ameliorates dry eye-related symptoms in a clinical pilot trial. Panminerva Med. 2014 Sep;56(3 Suppl 1):1-6.
  14. Yamashita SI, Suzuki N, Yamamoto K, et al. Effects of MaquiBright((R)) on improving eye dryness and fatigue in humans: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Tradit Complement Med. 2019 Jul;9(3):172-8.
  15. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/dry-eye?sso=y. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  16. Available at: https://www.aao.org/newsroom/eye-health-statistics. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  17. Tounaka K, Yuki K, Kouyama K, et al. Dry eye disease is associated with deterioration of mental health in male Japanese university staff. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2014 Jul;233(3):215-20.
  18. Le Q, Zhou X, Ge L, et al. Impact of dry eye syndrome on vision-related quality of life in a non-clinic-based general population. BMC Ophthalmol. 2012 Jul 16;12:22.
  19. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/cornealdisease. Accessed March 6, 2017.
  20. Cho YK, Archer B, Ambati BK. Dry eye predisposes to corneal neovascularization and lymphangiogenesis after corneal injury in a murine model. Cornea. 2014 Jun;33(6):621-7.
  21. Available at: https://health.costhelper.com/dry-eyes.html. Accessed November 4, 2019.
  22. Garcia-Resua C, Pena-Verdeal H, Remeseiro B, et al. Correlation between tear osmolarity and tear meniscus. Optom Vis Sci. 2014 Dec;91(12):1419-29.
  23. McCulley JP, Uchiyama E, Aronowicz JD, et al. Impact of evaporation on aqueous tear loss. Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 2006;104:121-8.
  24. Yagci A, Gurdal C. The role and treatment of inflammation in dry eye disease. Int Ophthalmol. 2014 Dec;34(6):1291-301.
  25. Suwalsky M, Vargas P, Avello M, et al. Human erythrocytes are affected in vitro by flavonoids of Aristotelia chilensis (Maqui) leaves. Int J Pharm. 2008 Nov 3;363(1-2):85-90.
  26. Available at: https://plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu/healthy-living/maqui-berry-2/. Accessed March 7, 2017.
  27. Fuentes L, Figueroa CR, Valdenegro M, et al. Patagonian Berries: Healthy Potential and the Path to Becoming Functional Foods. Foods. 2019 Jul 26;8(8):289.
  28. Tanaka J, Kadekaru T, Ogawa K, et al. Maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) and the constituent delphinidin glycoside inhibit photoreceptor cell death induced by visible light. Food Chem. 2013 Aug 15;139(1-4):129-37.
  29. Nakamura S, Tanaka J, Imada T, et al. Delphinidin 3,5-O-diglucoside, a constituent of the maqui berry (Aristotelia chilensis) anthocyanin, restores tear secretion in a rat dry eye model. Journal of Functional Foods. 2014 9//;10:346-54.
  30. Available at: https://www.hopkinssjogrens.org/disease-information/diagnosis-sjogrens-syndrome/schirmers-test/. Accessed November 5, 2019.