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Defend against glaucoma

Defend Your Eyes Against Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in U.S. adults. Two plant-based extracts have been shown to reduce intraocular pressure by 24%, or by 40% when taken with standard therapy.

Scientifically reviewed by: Gary Gonzalez, MD, in June 2024. Written by: Patrick Suarez.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the U.S.1,2

Approximately 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness in the U.S. are caused by glaucoma.2 Increased pressure within the eye, called intraocular pressure, is a risk factor and diagnostic measure for the optic nerve damage that is the underlying vision-robbing pathology of glaucoma.1

Scientists have identified two plant-derived extracts, bilberry3,4 and French maritime pine bark,5,6 with impressive health benefits. Taken alone or with glaucoma medications, this extract blend helps maintain healthy eye pressure.3,7-9

In one clinical study, this combination was shown to reduce intraocular pressure as much as 24% —with reductions of 40% when combined with standard therapy.8

A Leading Cause of Vision Loss

Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in gradual vison loss. It affects approximately 80 million people worldwide.1

People who are in the early stages of glaucoma generally have no symptoms. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve.1

It most commonly results from a problem with the drainage system of the eyes, resulting in fluid retention in the eyeball and excess pressure. Over time, this pressure damages the retina and the optic nerve (that carries visual information from the eye to the brain), resulting in reduced visual acuity, sometimes leading to permanent blindness.10

Preventing Glaucoma

There is no cure for glaucoma.2 But reducing elevated intraocular pressure may help prevent progression of glaucoma and vision loss.

Open angle glaucoma is the most common type, and accounts for 90% of glaucoma cases. Over time the eye's drainage channels become blocked and intraocular pressure rises.11

Additionally, endothelial dysfunction and vascular structural changes can substantially alter blood flow within the tissues and elevate intraocular pressure, leading eventually to open angle glaucoma.10,12,13

Once the optic nerve is damaged, it can't be repaired—even if the raised intraocular pressure is corrected.14

This makes it essential to find a way to reverse high intraocular pressure before it causes the irreversible damage of glaucoma. Together, two plant-based extracts have shown an ability to reduce this intraocular pressure: bilberry and French maritime pine bark.

What You Need to Know

An Extract Blend for Eye Health

  • Glaucoma, usually driven by elevated eye pressure, is a common cause of blindness.
  • Lowering eye pressure can help prevent the progression of glaucoma and vision loss.
  • Scientists have formulated a blend of standardized bilberry extract and French maritime pine barkextract that supports eye health.
  • In a human study, the combination reduced elevated eye pressure by up to 24% and improved ocular blood flow, potentially reducing the risk of glaucoma.

Eye Health Extracts

Bilberries are relatives of blueberries that grow mostly in Europe. They contain high concentrations of health-promoting compounds, particularly anthocyanins.15

Bilberry extracts offer protection from many common eye conditions. Studies indicate that bilberry extracts (alone or in combination with other nutrients that support eye health) help protect vision against disorders like cataract16 and glaucoma,17 improve parameters of dry eye syndrome,4 and help improve symptoms related to eye fatigue.18

Scientists have developed a standardized extract of bilberry that contains at least 36% anthocyanins.8

Improved blood flow to the eye may be supportive of maintaining healthy blood flow and pressure. A study showed bilberry extract could counteract hyperpermeability of capillaries in the eye. This effect increases ocular blood flow, which may reduce intraocular pressure.3

Another extract, derived from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, contains a potent mixture of beneficial compounds, including procyanidins.5,19 This pine bark extract has been found to benefit patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy and retinal micro-hemorrhages.6,20

French maritime pine bark extract has been shown to improve the function ofthe endothelium (the delicate layer of cells lining the blood vessels).21-23 A clinical study found a high prevalence of microvascular endothelial dysfunction in open angle glaucoma patients, compared to controls.13

Reduced Eye Pressure

A combination of bilberry and pine bark extract has been studied for its ability to relieve the eye pressure that leads to glaucoma.

In an animal model, this combination reduced intraocular pressure and protected the critical nerve cells of the eye against damage and death24

Eye Support from Carotenoids

The bilberry-French maritime pine bark combination has shown benefits for elevated eye pressure and glaucoma.

Oral intake of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, have shown promise to reduce risk for other common threats to vision, including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.25

Taking carotenoids with bilberry and French maritime pine bark extracts may offer comprehensive protection against common eye disorders.

Clinical Trial

But the most impressive results have been seen in studies of humans at risk for glaucoma.

In an initial controlled trial, adults with elevated eye pressure who had not yet shown evidence of glaucoma) were either left untreated or given a combination of 80 mg of French maritime pine bark extract and 160 mg of standardized bilberry extract daily for six months.3

After three months, untreated subjects had almost no change, while those receiving the extracts had a nearly 13% decrease in intraocular pressure. Those taking the combination also had a significant improvement in ocular blood flow.3

A follow-up study compared the two extracts to a common eye pressure-lowering medication, latanoprost eye drops. Adults with elevated intraocular pressure received either the extracts, the drops, or both.8

In this case, all three groups demonstrated a reduction in intraocular pressure.

While the drops lowered eye pressure by 28% after four weeks of treatment, the bilberry-pine bark blend alone worked more gradually, reducing intraocular pressure after six weeks. This improvement progressed so that by sixteen weeks, the extract group had a 24% reduction in pressure. The extract also had a better safety profile.

The medication and extracts together reduced eye pressure by almost 40% by the end of the 24-week study period, which was greater than the medication alone. These changes were accompanied by improvements in ocular blood flow.

Summary

Glaucoma, usually driven by elevated eye pressure, can lead to vision loss and blindness.

A blend of standardized bilberry extract and French maritime pine bark extract can help reduce eye pressure levels and improve ocular blood flow in those at risk for glaucoma.

Taken alone or with medications, the extracts can help protect against glaucoma development and reduce vision loss in those already suffering from glaucoma.

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. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/glaucoma. Accessed May 27, 2024.
  2. Available at: https://glaucoma.org/articles/glaucoma-facts-and-stats. Accessed May 24, 2024.
  3. Steigerwalt RD, Gianni B, Paolo M, et al. Effects of Mirtogenol on ocular blood flow and intraocular hypertension in asymptomatic subjects. Mol Vis. 2008 Jul 10;14:1288-92.
  4. Riva A, Togni S, Franceschi F, et al. The effect of a natural, standardized bilberry extract (Mirtoselect(R)) in dry eye: a randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017 May;21(10):2518-25.
  5. Zhang Z, Tong X, Wei YL, et al. Effect of Pycnogenol Supplementation on Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Iran J Public Health. 2018 Jun;47(6):779-87.
  6. Steigerwalt R, Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al. Pycnogenol improves microcirculation, retinal edema, and visual acuity in early diabetic retinopathy. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Dec;25(6):537-40.
  7. Gizzi C, Torino-Rodriguez P, Belcaro G, et al. Mirtogenol(R) supplementation in association with dorzolamide-timolol or latanoprost improves the retinal microcirculation in asymptomatic patients with increased ocular pressure. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017 Oct;21(20):4720-5.
  8. Steigerwalt RD, Jr., Belcaro G, Morazzoni P, et al. Mirtogenol potentiates latanoprost in lowering intraocular pressure and improves ocular blood flow in asymptomatic subjects. Clin Ophthalmol. 2010 May 14;4:471-6.
  9. Widyakusuma A, Artini W, Oktariana VD, Prihartono J. The effect of mirtogenol towards the changes in retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and visual field in primary open angle glaucoma. Ophthalmologica Indonesiana. 2017;43(1):28-33.
  10. Wagner IV, Stewart MW, Dorairaj SK. Updates on the Diagnosis and Management of Glaucoma. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2022 Dec;6(6):618-35.
  11. Available at: https://glaucoma.org/types. Accessed May 29, 2024.
  12. Moore D, Harris A, Wudunn D, et al. Dysfunctional regulation of ocular blood flow: A risk factor for glaucoma? Clin Ophthalmol. 2008 Dec;2(4):849-61.
  13. Mudassar Imran Bukhari S, Yew KK, Thambiraja R, et al. Microvascular endothelial function and primary open angle glaucoma. Ther Adv Ophthalmol. 2019 Jan-Dec;11:2515841419868100.
  14. Miller NR, Tsai RK. Optic Neuropathies: Current and Future Strategies for Optic Nerve Protection and Repair. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Apr 10;24(8).
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  17. Shim SH, Kim JM, Choi CY, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract and bilberry anthocyanins improve visual function in patients with normal tension glaucoma. J Med Food. 2012 Sep;15(9):818-23.
  18. Ozawa Y, Kawashima M, Inoue S, et al. Bilberry extract supplementation for preventing eye fatigue in video display terminal workers. J Nutr Health Aging. 2015 May;19(5):548-54.
  19. Rohdewald P. A review of the French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol), a herbal medication with a diverse clinical pharmacology. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Apr;40(4):158-68.
  20. Schonlau F, Rohdewald P. Pycnogenol for diabetic retinopathy. A review. Int Ophthalmol. 2001;24(3):161-71.
  21. Weichmann F, Rohdewald P. Pycnogenol((R)) French maritime pine bark extract in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical studies. Front Nutr. 2024;11:1389374.
  22. Nishioka K, Hidaka T, Nakamura S, et al. Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, augments endothelium-dependent vasodilation in humans. Hypertens Res. 2007 Sep;30(9):775-80.
  23. Enseleit F, Sudano I, Periat D, et al. Effects of Pycnogenol on endothelial function in patients with stable coronary artery disease: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. Eur Heart J. 2012 Jul;33(13):1589-97.
  24. Andika YW, Jannah SR, Winarto, et al. Effects of oral Mirtogenol on retinal ganglion cell apoptosis index and intraocular pressure in the Wistar glaucoma model. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2023 Jul-Sep;14(3):258-62.
  25. Johra FT, Bepari AK, Bristy AT, Reza HM. A Mechanistic Review of beta-Carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin in Eye Health and Disease. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020 Oct 26;9(11).