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HEALTH

Visual processing speeds: The key to peak performance?

W

hat do you and your favorite professional athlete have in common? You both use your eye sight each day to live life

to the fullest. Whether it’s scoring the winning goal or making that critical catch, trained athletes always use their eyes, and, their visual processing speed can make or break their success. Turns out, visual processing speed can make a big difference for everyone, not just those who work in professional sports. Visual processing speed is the rate at which a person’s eyes and brain communicate to identify, process and respond to stimuli - whether it’s a major league baseball player’s ability to hit a fastball traveling at 95 miles per hour or your capacity to skillfully maneuver your vehicle to avoid an accident. Groundbreaking research out of the University of Georgia (UGA) has shown supplementing with dietary zeaxanthin can enhance a person’s visual processing speed. In the study, young, healthy participants were given an eye health supplement containing a minimum of 20 mg of dietary zeaxanthin and 8 mg of lutein, each day for four months.

Results revealed dietary zeaxanthin supplementation led to improvements in vision quality and gains in visual processing speed by as much as 10 percent. The findings of the double-blind placebo controlled study were recently released in the “Public Library of Science (PLOS).” By increasing the speed at which the brain processes information, supplements with high levels of dietary zeaxanthin as a key active ingredient have the power to provide athletes with critical extra milliseconds to see better and react faster, says Dr. Graham Erickson, a Pacific University College of Optometry professor. For example, a batter only has a fraction of a second to watch a ball leave a pitcher’s hand, send that visual information from the eye to the brain, process the information, judge the pitch, and physically start to swing. An advantage like this can mean the difference between an outstanding or ordinary performance on the field. An increase in visual processing speed can positively affect non-athletes as well - whether that’s catching an object mid-fall or reacting in to prevent an accident.

“The ability to actually change brain function in relatively young, healthy individuals based on a dietary supplement has wide implications for our ability to optimize human performance,” says Dr. Billy Hammond, study author and lead researcher at UGA Vision Sciences laboratory. He notes this research is the first time a study has proven the ability to improve processing speed through dietary supplementation. Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid found in the retina as well as within brain tissue and skin. The antioxidant has also been shown to protect photoreceptors within the back of the eye that are paramount to central vision. Zeaxanthin is not manufactured by the body therefore it must be ingested. Most Americans consume less than 1 mg of the antioxidant, found in foods such as peppers, kale, corn and collard greens, each day. The nutrient can be found in eye vitamins like EyePromise vizual EDGE. Previous clinical studies have shown dietary zeaxanthin use has been associated with decreasing light sensitivity while enhancing contrast sensitivity, visual acuity and glare recovery.

SPRING 2015

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209 healthy living march 2015