Crocin and Saffron Are Good for Age-Related Eye Diseases

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Age-related eye diseases, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts are the major causes of decline of vision and blindness affecting over 20 million Americans in the aging population. These progressively degenerative eye diseases are caused by multiple risk factors and often considered incurable and unpreventable. However, Mother Nature seems to offer just its best for these eye diseases.

Saffron (Crocus sativus L.), one of the most expensive spices in the world, has been consumed since antiquity as a home remedy to cure various diseases. Saffron and particularly its main active constituent crocin, a unique water-soluble carotenoid and potent antioxidant, are gaining attention. Clinical studies of saffron and its main active constituent crocin in recent years suggested that supplementation with crocin or saffron may have positive effects on various vision-related parameters in adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic maculopathy, and Stargardt macular dystrophy.

Scientists from Aston University in UK just published a good review article titled “Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in ocular diseases: a narrative review of the existing evidence from clinical studies” in journal Nutrients on March 18, 20191. They included eight (8) clinical studies that have assessed the impact of oral supplementation with saffron or crocin on vision-related parameters in adults with eye diseases, including AMD, glaucoma, and diabetic maculopathy. Additionally, a short term (6 months) study, which was not included in this review, to assess saffron supplementation on central retinal function in patients with ABCA4-related Stargardt macular dystrophy was reported by Italian scientists (Falsini et al, 2015)2.

KEY FINDINGS from these published clinical studies include:

  • Crocin is the main active constituent primarily responsible for the health effects of saffron3.
  • Supplementation of crocin at 15mg/day or saffron at 20-50mg/day were clinically shown to improve or maintain eye functions.
  • Crocin (15mg/day) significantly decreased central macula thickness and improved best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) or eyesight in patients with diabetic macular edema after three months treatment. The crocin treatment also resulted in significant improvements in levels of fasting blood glucose and glycated haemoglobin A1c4.
  • Saffron (20-50mg/day) improved BCVA or eyesight, contrast sensitivity, increased amplitude and sensitivity in focal electroretinography in AMD patients; decreased central macula thickness in wet AMD patients1. Effects of saffron were found extended to those who were already on AREDS2 supplements1,5.
  • Saffron (20mg/day) was found to prevent or slow down the progression of central retinal dysfunction during the study in patients with ABCA4-related Stargardt macular dystrophy2.
  • Saffron (30mg/day) exerted an ocular hypotensive effect in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma6.

Besides these findings from clinical studies, crocin and saffron were also found to have inhibitory effects on cataract through inhibition of protein oxidation, glycation and aggregation in animal studies7,8.

CONCLUSION:

Crocin and saffron are potentially good for age-related eye conditions. Effects of crocin and saffron may be better than those of AREDS2 supplements.

COMMENT: 

Crocin products are more advantageous as crocin is the active constituent to deliver effects, while quality of commercial saffron with content of crocin varies significantly. Saffron is also known to be subjected to adulteration since Middle Age. Crocin supplements could be used with AREDS2 supplements.

For more information regarding the recent review article, please click here. Other references were listed below:

Reference:

  1. Heitmar R, et al (2019). Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in ocular diseases: a narrative review of the existing evidence from clinical studies. Nutrients, 2019, 11, 649; doi:10.3390/nu11030649
  2. Falsini B, et al. (2015) Saffron supplementation for ABCA4-related Stargardt Macular Dystrophy: A Short-term Study Evaluating Central Retinal Function. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 2015, 56(7): 3827 (ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract)
  3. Finley JW & Gao S. (2017) Perspective on Crocus sativus L. (Saffron) Constituent Crocin: A Potent Water-Soluble Antioxidant and Potential Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease. Agric. Food Chem. 2017, 65, 1005−1020.
  4. Sepahi et al. (2018) Effects of Crocin on Diabetic Maculopathy: A Placebo-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial. Am J Ophthalmol. 2018, 190: 89-98.
  5. Broadhead GK, et al. (2019) Saffron therapy for the treatment of mild/moderate age-related macular degeneration: a randomised clinical trial. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2019, 257(1):31-40.
  6. Bonyadi et al. (2014) The ocular hypotensive effect of saffron extract in primary open angle glaucoma: a pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014, 14:399. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-399.
  7. Bahmani F, et al. (2016) Inhibitory effect of crocin (s) on Lens α-crystallin glycation and aggregation, results in the decrease of the risk of diabetic cataract. Molecules, 2016, 21(2), 143; doi:10.3390/molecules21020143.
  8. Makri OE, et al. (2013) Saffron administration prevents selenite-induced cataractogenesis. Molecular Vision, 2013, 19:1188-1197

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