While traditional sports leagues across the nation have been forced to suspend due to the pandemic, esports have continued to push forward. Despite COVID-related estimate changes, esports revenues are expected to grow 12% to $196 million this year and grow another 15% in 2021 to reach $225 million, according to eMarketer. In this digital age, entertainment via video games is highly accessible, whether by smartphone, computer or video game consoles like Xbox and Nintendo. In 2018, over 164 million American adults (65%) played video games, noted the Entertainment Software Association, and that number has only increased, especially as the pandemic has caused a large influx of video game related purchases as a source of entertainment while stuck at home. Among all video game players, a 2020 Statista survey discovered that 64% are between the ages of 18 and 54, and persons under 18 years of age comprise another 21% of video gamers. Additional Statista data noted 18% of gamers spend from four to seven hours per week playing video games, while 11% spent anywhere between 12 and 20 hours per week. With all this digital screen time and a sedentary lifestyle, on top of any time spent sitting in front of a computer occupationally, natural solutions are needed to help mitigate the health risks on both the eyes and from potential weight gain. Capsicum annuum—most commonly recognized as the chili or cayenne pepper, but also bell and jalapeño peppers—delivers two particular compounds, capsanthin and capsaicin, that may be able to help.
The capsanthin level up
Carotenoids—plant pigments responsible for bright reds, yellows and oranges—have long been studied for their potential eye health benefits, but capsanthin (a unique xanthophyllic carotenoid) has mostly, until recently, flown under the radar. An unpublished human clinical trial performed at the University of North Texas showed that subjects who consumed capsanthin experienced multiple increases in macular pigment optical density (MPOD). This resulted in better protection and reading performance while using both blue and white lights, as well as improved recovery from photostress—experienced from exposure to bright light which can cause eye fatigue and a drop in visual acuity. An additional unpublished in vivo study on rats indicated that after a week of consumption, capsanthin was able to help reduce heightened intraocular pressure (IOP) levels, resulting in levels dropping to a normal range after 28 days.
The results of these studies could bode well in supporting the short- and longer-term eye health of gamers, but the potential benefits of capsaicin— the compound that gives chili peppers their pungency—don’t end there. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended from normal or trivial tasks that do not involve eating, sleeping or sports-like exercise, and it plays a critical role in the body’s ability to maintain proper weight (Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;16:679-702). As video gaming is a sedentary activity, long hours at a desk or on the couch can be bad news for the waistline. One study review suggested capsaicin helps the body to enter NEAT, boosting the resting metabolic rate (Biosci Rep. 2017;37:BSR20170286). In consuming capsaicin and beginning the NEAT process, the body is able to burn existing body fat for enhanced energy.
An unpublished preclinical study on obesity-induced mice showed a significant reduction in body weight compared to those that were treated with weight-loss medication. In addition to decreased weight, the capsaicin group showed a reduction in observed lipid parameters such as cholesterol and triglycerides. The implication for further study that could benefit gamers, then, is capsaicin helps the body to convert existing fat into energy to extend endurance, delivering a longer gaming experience.
Video gaming is becoming more common every year and with it, new health demands need to be addressed. The natural products industry has the opportunity to meet those demands by providing safe and efficacious supplements that can both support proper health and improve gamer performance. The compounds in Capsicum annuum show great promise as a source of ocular nutrition and thermogenesis support to help meet the demands of the esports lifestyle.
Sevanti Mehta, president of Unibar, was raised to value good health through diet and ayurvedic tradition. He made it his life goal to help mankind improve health through science-based solutions and now brings 20 years of experience to the natural products industry. Sevanti personally believes in the power of natural ingredients to support health, including his patent-pending CapsiClear. He provides active support for eye health and education in poor communities in India.