Blueberries and Dry Eyes: What Does Science Have to Say?
Can blueberries help with dry eyes? Research shows that they can.
When it comes to foods good for dry eyes, blueberries often get mentioned. But what exactly is it about these small berries that makes them one of the best foods for eye dryness?
In this post, we take a closer look at a blueberry component that can help protect your eyes from dry eye disease. We’ll also review some of the other notable eye health benefits of blueberries. And show you how to integrate this superfood into a healthy diet.
So, what’s the link between blueberries and dry eyes?
How Blueberries Help with Dry Eyes
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods for your eyes and body. They are an abundant source of antioxidants that protect tissues from cellular damage resulting from environmental factors and cellular processes.
Blueberries also owe to antioxidants their dry eye benefits. A 2016 study found that the antioxidant pterostilbene in blueberries can protect the cornea, the transparent layer that covers the iris and pupil, from inflammation and oxidative stress resulting from insufficient tear production or tear evaporation.
Pterostilbene is the primary antioxidant component in blueberries. It is a plant-based compound or natural molecule that belongs to the family of polyphenols. Polyphenols are known for their ability to reduce the production of free radicals in the body and interact with enzymes to reduce inflammation. They offer effective treatment alternatives to dry eye disease, according to a 2021 study.
When researchers introduced pterostilbene to the outer layer of the cornea in concentrations ranging from 5 to 20 μM, it significantly suppressed inflammatory biomarkers and decreased oxidative damage. This reduced inflammation. Inflammation in the eye increases the risk for dry eye disease.
Inflammation and Dry Eyes
The link between inflammation and dry eyes is a complex one. When bacteria, chemicals, or an injury damage cells in your body, white blood cells rush to the affected area to repair the damage. As they do so, they trigger an inflammatory response that is part of the repair process.
When inflammation occurs in your eye or tear glands, your eyes may end up with insufficient tears. Or there may be an imbalance in the tear composition that makes tears evaporate too fast. Healthy tears consist of a mixture of oil, water, salt, and mucin. Any imbalance in these, and tears may evaporate too quickly.
When the volume or balance of the tear film is affected, your eyes start feeling dry. The tear film doesn’t do its job as normal lubricating the surface of your eyes. Hence the sensation of grittiness, irritation, or having sand in your eye that people with dry eyes often experience.
Things don’t stop here, though. Without enough quality tears to wash away germs, dust, and dirt, corneal infections or abrasions may occur. These in turn can make your body launch an immune response to heal your eye. The resulting inflammation can worsen dry eye symptoms and cause long-lasting damage to cells and nerves in your eyes.
Studies suggest that an imbalance between reactive oxygen species, a type of highly reactive chemicals, and protective enzymes can cause oxidative damage and inflammation associated with dry eyes. The good news is that in-vitro studies suggest that pterostilbene may reduce oxidative stress in cultured cells.
Pterostilbene also helps to restore the balance of antioxidative enzymes and oxygenases, key biological catalysts. What's more, researchers from the Wenzhou Medical University designed a pterostilbene-peptide compound that can self-assemble into prodrug nanomedicine. It reduced both reactive oxygen species and inflammatory cytokines, highlighting the potential of pterostilbene as an effective treatment for dry eye disease.
Anthocyanins and Dry Eyes
A 2017 study also suggests that blueberries can play a role in treating dry eye disease. A randomized controlled trial found that a fresh frozen bilberry extract helps support normal tear levels in people with dry eyes. Participants in the study who received 80 mg of the extract twice a day for 4 weeks saw noticeable improvements in tear levels.
Bilberries, or European wild blueberries as they are also known, belong to the same family of fruits as blueberries. Both fruits are rich in anthocyanins, which seem to be responsible for the positive results of the study.
Anthocyanins are a type of antioxidant that gives these fruits their color. Anthocyanins help support blood circulation in the eyes and may reduce eye fatigue for people with nearsightedness.
The Blueberry Gummies Clinical Trial
At Sightsage, we are confident in the power of natural compounds to help heal and protect vision. We have launched an ongoing clinical trial at the Centre for Ocular Research & Education in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada to evaluate the efficacy of Blueberry Gummies made with blueberry powder to reduce dry eye signs and symptoms. This is the first interventional study to investigate the efficiency of an oral blueberry supplement on dry eyes in humans.
About the study:
- 60 participants ages 18+
- Phase 3
The clinical trial will compare results from participants taking gummy bears containing blueberry powder against those taking gummy bears with no active ingredients as measured in Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) and Non-Invasive Tear Break-Up Time tests at baseline and then after 4 weeks.
Learn more about the Blueberry Gummies clinical trial and watch for updates on the results.
How to Eat More Blueberries
If you’re spending hours in front of screens every day, eating more blueberries is one of the best things you can do for your eyes. Here are some ideas on how to add blueberries to a diet to help dry eyes. Apart from eating them raw, that is!
- Make a delicious vegan blueberry and chia seed pudding. It’s gluten-free and takes only 5 minutes!
- Toss dried blueberries over a salad. The sweet, acidic taste of blueberries enhances salads that include cheese, almonds, or cucumbers.
- Use blueberries to top homemade pancakes or waffles. You can also add some blueberry jam, though it’s always better (and less sugary) to eat fresh fruits. If you do get blueberry jam, you can opt for a sugar-free one.
- Add blueberries to yogurt for a portion of quick and delicious breakfast food. This is a healthier way to make a fruit yogurt since processed blueberry yogurts often have sugar and additives like colorings.
- Eat blueberries with goat cheese as an appetizer. It’s the perfect starter for a gourmet meal.
- Blend frozen blueberries with mango, kale, and almond milk into an antioxidant-rich smoothie that supports eye health. Find the recipe in our post on smoothie recipes for healthy eyes.
A diet for dry eyes should always include blueberries. Whether fresh, frozen, or dried, blueberries pack healthy doses of antioxidants. And don’t let size deceive you—blueberries that grow naturally in the wild may be smaller, but they pack more antioxidants than commercially grown varieties.
Tip: Looking for more foods to help with dry eyes and eye health in general? Find them in our post on top superfoods for eye health.
Blueberry Gummies for Happy Eyes
Another way to take advantage of the benefits of blueberries for the eyes is to enjoy them in supplement form.
Blueberry Gummies are made from Canadian blueberries and sweetened with monk fruit, a zero-calorie sweetener. Whether you are concerned about your dental health or living with diabetes, Blueberry Gummies are safe for you.
You can pop them into your mouth in between or after meals. You can share them with your kids and take them with you to the office or when you’re traveling. Unlike eye drops, they’re easy to use anywhere. And they are simply delicious!
Blueberry Gummies don’t feel like your average dry eye supplement. And that makes taking them every day simple and fun. You can easily integrate them into an eye-healthy lifestyle.
Try now Blueberry Gummies. Your eyes will love them!