Articles

Zeaxanthin

Introduction

Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid that occurs at high levels in the retina of the eyes. The greatest amounts of zeaxanthin occur in the macular region of the eye, whereas lutein, a closely related compound, is distributed throughout the entire retina. (1) When these compounds are found in plants, they both seem to occur together. For this reason, zeaxanthin and lutein are often discussed together and in fact they are sometimes referred to as lutein-zeaxanthin. These carotenoids have two main functions; they absorb the potentially harmful blue-violet wavelengths of light energy that come into the eye and they also function as antioxidants. (2) , (3)

Zeaxanthin occurs in a wide variety of dark-green and yellow colored fruits and vegetables. The highest concentrations are found in corn, collards, kale, spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, Swiss chard, persimmons, tangerines, oranges, and egg yolks. (4) , (5)

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

1,000 mcg daily

Most Common Dosage

1,000 mcg daily

Dosage Forms

capsules and powder

Reported Uses

Individuals whose diets provide greater amounts of dietary zeaxanthin and lutein have a reduced incidence of cataracts. In one study, men who had the highest consumption of zeaxanthin and lutein in their diets had a 19% reduced risk of cataracts compared to men who had the lowest amounts of zeaxanthin and lutein in their diets. (6) Another study noted that individuals in the top 20% for lutein/zeaxanthin consumption were 50% less likely to develop a cataract compared to individuals in the lowest 20%. (7)

Studies support the theory that the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein provide a protective effect against the development of macular degeneration. A study evaluated the amount of zeaxanthin and lutein in donated retinas from people who had macular degeneration and compared them to the retinas from people who did not have macular degeneration. The results revealed that the retinas of individuals with macular degeneration had lower levels of zeaxanthin and lutein than the retinas of people who had not developed macular degeneration. Individuals in the top 20% of zeaxanthin and lutein levels were found to have an 82% lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration compared to individuals in the bottom 20%. (8) Other sources report that individuals with greater consumption of zeaxanthin and lutein have a 40% reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. (9) More recently, less affirming results have been published. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) evaluated the relationship between dietary lutein and zeaxanthin and the presence of age-related maculopathy. No overall observations could be made regarding supplementation with these carotenoids and age-related maculopathy. (10)

General

This dietary supplement is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines.

Pregnancy / Breast Feeding

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects related to fetal development during pregnancy or to infants who are breast-fed. Yet little is known about the use of this dietary supplement while pregnant or breast-feeding. Therefore, it is recommended that you inform your healthcare practitioner of any dietary supplements you are using while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Age Limitations

To date, the medical literature has not reported any adverse effects specifically related to the use of this dietary supplement in children. Since young children may have undiagnosed allergies or medical conditions, this dietary supplement should not be used in children under 10 years of age unless recommended by a physician.

References

  1. View Abstract: Handelman GJ, Dratz EA, Reay CC, van Kuijk JG. Carotenoids in the human macula and whole retina. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. Jun1988;29(6):850-5.
  2. View Abstract: Bernstein PS, Khachik F, Carvalho LS. Identification and quantitation of carotenoids and their metabolites in the tissues of the human eye. Exp Eye Res. Mar2001;72(3):215-23.
  3. View Abstract: Sujak A, Gabrielska J, Grudzinski W, et al. Lutein and zeaxanthin as protectors of lipid membranes against oxidative damage: the structural aspects. Arch Biochem Biophys. Nov1999;371(2):301-7.
  4. View Abstract: Sommerburg O, Keunen JE, Bird AC, van Kuijk FJ. Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes. Br J Ophthalmol. Aug1998;82(8):907-10.
  5. View Abstract: Handelman GJ, Nightingale ZD, Lichtenstein AH, Schaefer EJ, Blumberg JB. Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in plasma after dietary supplementation with egg yolk. Am J Clin Nutr. Aug1999;70(2):247-51.
  6. View Abstract: Brown L, Rimm EB, Seddon JM, et al. A prospective study of carotenoid intake and risk of cataract extraction in US men. Am J Clin Nutr. Oct1999;70(4):517-24.
  7. View Abstract: Lyle BJ, Mares-Perlman JA, Klein BE, et al. Antioxidant intake and risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam Eye Study. Am J Epidemiol. May1999;149(9):801-9.
  8. View Abstract: Bone RA, Landrum JT, Mayne ST, et al. Macular pigment in donor eyes with and without AMD: a case-control study. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. Jan2001;42(1):235-40.
  9. View Abstract: Moeller SM, Jacques PF, Blumberg JB. The potential role of dietary xanthophylls in cataract and age-related macular degeneration. J Am Coll Nutr. Oct2000;19(5 Suppl):522S-527S.
  10. View Abstract: Mares-Perlman JA, Fisher AI, Klein R, Palta M, Block G, Millen AE, Wright JD. Lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet and serum and their relation to age-related maculopathy in the third national health and nutrition examination survey. Am J Epidemiol. Mar2001;153(5):424-32.