Eye health is not something to take for granted. However, we aren’t always taught exactly how to best care for our eyes from an early age. Most adults need corrective lenses at some point and, because this is so normal, it may be perceived as a given; something that is just a part of aging. However, eye health is more than seeing well and being able to read a book or a computer screen. It’s also about minimizing risks for conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. This is where supplements like lutein and zeaxanthin come in.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are commonly found in supplements formulated for eye health. Carotenoids are red and yellow pigments that are found in certain plants and vegetables, like carrots and red or yellow peppers. Interestingly, though associated with red and yellow pigments, these carotenoids are also found in high amounts in spinach and other green leafy vegetables. They are also found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye. The macula is the center of the retina and the part of the eye that sees central vision.
Studies indicate that lutein and zeaxanthin act as antioxidants in the body. They work in concert with others, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C to protect against the effects of free radicals, unstable molecules that degrade cellular health.
Eye Benefits of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Zeaxanthin is found directly in the macula of the eye. Another vital substance that, along with zeaxanthin, blocks blue light from damaging the retina, is meso-zeaxanthin. This carotenoid is made in the eye from lutein. The presence of these substances in the macula is important because they reduce the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration known as AMD.
- A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism indicated that lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin in supplement form increased the optical density of macular pigment in the eyes. This pigment is believed to be protective against macular degeneration.
- A study published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics concluded that this mixture of carotenoids filtered short-wave light rays, reducing the generation of free radicals in the retinal pigment epithelium, protecting against oxidative damage.
- A study published in the journal Optometry showed that people who consumed 8mg of dietary zeaxanthin daily for one year experienced improved visual acuity, enabling them to read an average of 1.5 more lines on an eye chart than previously.