Eyeing better vision: Concerns over ocular health creating business opportunities in APAC

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Children are especially vulnerable to vision-related issues, particularly when many tend to have access to mobile devices and computers. ©Getty Images
Children are especially vulnerable to vision-related issues, particularly when many tend to have access to mobile devices and computers. ©Getty Images
Eye health is now the greatest health concern in the Asia Pacific region, according to a survey by global market and consumer intelligence firm Ipsos.

Almost 8,000 respondents were surveyed, and 4,000 were APAC residents. The results showed that in the region, eye health took precedence over other prevalent issues, such as heart health, mental and emotional well-being, weight management, and immune system health.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia ​at the HI Southeast Asia trade show in Jakarta, DSM's human nutrition and health ASEAN business head Sue-Yin Wong said: "More people are now spending more time looking at screens. Whether it's mobile phones, tablets, computers, the use of these devices in Asia Pacific ranges from two to nine hours a day."

She added that many heavy users of such devices tended to be young adults, teenagers, and even young children, leading to an even greater area of concern in terms of healthy ageing and quality of life.

In a session on eye health at HI SEA, DSM Nutritional Products' APAC nutritional science advocacy manager Dr Femke Hannes said this trend was especially troubling since the macula lutea, the area of the retina with the highest visual acuity, matures in the first seven to eight years of life through dietary lutein intake.

This makes children especially vulnerable to vision-related issues, particularly when many tend to have access to mobile devices and computers.

Ocular protection

To this end, DSM has developed an ingredient made from zeaxanthin, a carotenoid alcohol that studies have linked to a lower incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Called OPTISHARP Natural, the ingredient is said to be naturally sourced, and takes the same 'free form' in which it is present in one's diet.

The human body does not produce zeaxanthin, but through diet and supplements, it is absorbed and deposited in the lens, retina and macula, as well as the brain, skin, and even breastmilk; dietary sources of zeaxanthin include eggs, corn and leafy greens.

Additionally, zeaxanthin and lutein work together to protect against certain eye conditions via their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and by increasing macular pigment and filtering out blue light.

Along with OPTISHARP Natural, DSM's lutein ingredient, FloraGLO, is meant to improve eye health and help to prevent ocular damage.

Both ingredients are designed for use in developing eye health supplements.

Roadblocks to good health

While DSM continues to develop and supply ingredients to manufacturers, Wong acknowledged that the companies behind the burgeoning innovations in APAC's health and nutrition market are often faced with the issue of affordability.

"Consumers' buying power and the retail prices of supplements are a constant area of concern for suppliers and manufacturers.

"As an ingredient supplier, DSM is always focused on sourcing quality ingredients, developing them as efficiently as possible, and ensuring they are used to provide consumers with good options to support their health.

"But maintaining quality and affordability at the same time will always be a challenge."

She added that the lack of harmonised regulations across South East Asia also means considerable differences among the countries in the region, meaning more regulatory issues to tackle.

This is also disadvantageous to how quickly products can be on shelves, which in turn may affect pricing and affordability.

Still, Wong said DSM maintains a positive market outlook.

"We've seen new and impressive innovations and developments by some of the manufacturers we work with right here in Indonesia, and this enables us to continue striving to offer solutions to support our customers' health."

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