Zeaxanthin Facts

Zeaxanthin is 5 to 10 times less common than lutein in human blood and 10 to 20 times less common in the average diet.

What is zeaxanthin?

Zeaxanthin is a nutrient found in nature as colorants or pigment. It is also found in vegetables such as kale, plus various fruits and corn. Marigolds are also sources of zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is found naturally in the body, predominantly in the eyes and brain.

Zeaxanthin is a powerful, natural antioxidant that protects the eye by absorbing damaging blue light and reducing glare. Blue light can cause harmful oxidative stress in the eye. Zeaxanthin protects cells and membranes by reducing harmful free radicals.

Zeaxanthin is not "made" in the human body and must come from food or dietary supplements. Receiving adequate amounts of zeaxanthin through food can be particularly difficult, as it requires many servings a day of certain fruits and vegetables.

Only one zeaxanthin form (3R, 3’R) is naturally found in fruits and vegetables and it is one the body prefers. It is also the only one that has been approved as a dietary supplement. Other forms, like meso-zeaxanthin, cannot be considered a dietary supplement, as they are not found in our average diet.

Why should I include zeaxanthin in my diet?

Zeaxanthin is a main component of the macular pigment in the retina. Zeaxanthin is preferentially deposited over lutein in the center of the macular, the most important area for central vision. Zeaxanthin is also found in the brain and other organs.

The role played by the powerful antioxidant zeaxanthin in the eye is to sharpen central vision (the clearness with which objects stand out from their surroundings), reduce the effects of glare (blue light) and maintain healthy visual acuity. These important functions all take place in the fovea, located in the center of the macula of the human eye. This is where the body requires a steady supply of the macular pigment zeaxanthin. Individual levels of zeaxanthin in the body are strongly influenced by diet. Zeaxanthin cannot be produced by the human body and must come from dietary intake.

  • Zeaxanthin and AMD
    AMD is a disease that attacks the macula of the eye, where the sharpest central vision occurs. The dry form of AMD rarely results in complete blindness, but can damage all but the outermost peripheral vision, leaving only dim images or black holes at the center of vision. Rod and cone photoreceptors that give a person optimal visual acuity and perception of color and light start to die out and are not replaced. These rods and cones reside in the macula, helping us to focus on the fine details that are seen directly in front of the eye. Clinical studies have shown dietary supplementation of zeaxanthin can help prevent AMD by maintaining pigment levels in the rod and cone photoreceptors and keeping them healthy. Zeaxanthin can also accumulate in the macula to help filter out damaging blue light.
  • Zeaxanthin and Central Vision
    Your eyes work by allowing light to enter through the pupil and project onto a light-sensitive wall of cells at the back of the eye known as the retina. The retina consists of millions of photoreceptor cells known as rods and cones. The macula is located in the center of the retina and is responsible for discerning color and fine detail. This area is predominantly made up of cones. The cones in the fovea are smaller and more densely packed, and they are not obscured by a layer of nerve cells or blood vessels. This accounts for the sharp vision associated with them. This is where zeaxanthin is deposited by the body in the highest concentrations. Increasing zeaxanthin intake helps maintain visual performance over the long term.
  • Zeaxanthin Reduces Glare
    Another key factor in damaging visibility is glare resulting from blue light. This is due to increasing levels of smog and haze in the environment. The haze and smog from pollen, dust, smoke and other pollutants react with short wave visible light (blue light) and create glare. Zeaxanthin absorbs blue light and can enhance a target from its surroundings by reducing glare. (more info)

What is meso-zeaxanthin?

Meso-zeaxanthin is an isomer of zeaxanthin. It is not found in a daily diet, but it is found in the macula. Meso-zeaxanthin is produced from lutein in the eye when there is not enough 3R, 3’R zeaxanthin available to the eye. Meso-zeaxanthin production in the eye can falter with age.

Meso-zeaxanthin is available in dietary supplements, but more often than not, it isn’t clearly labeled. There is limited clinical and safety information available on meso-zeaxanthin. The meso-zeaxanthin currently available in the dietary market has not been approved by the FDA.

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