Basic Duo: Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Salad rich in Lutein and ZeaxanthinThese powerhouses provide a great starting point for your vision nutrition. Lutein and zeaxanthin (along with mesozeaxanthin) are carotenoids, a class of mostly yellow, orange, or red fat-soluble pigments, including carotenes, which give color to plant parts such as ripe tomatoes.

These macular pigments act as an internal pair of sunglasses to protect the retina from the damaging effects of UV radiation and blue light.  They support microcirculation in the tiny capillaries within the eye.  They protect the functions of the immune and anti-inflammation systems within the different regions of the eye.

They are found in the periphery of the retina (for night vision with mostly rods), the macula (center of the retina for sharp vision with rods and cones), and the fovea (the pit inside the macula with only cones) for the sharpest vision.

And, don’t forget – the eyes are part of the nerve structure of the brain – so these benefits extend to brain health.

But, most people with a normal diet have low levels of carotenoid antioxidants, so paying very close attention to a diet with lots of dark leafy greens, and supplementing is a good idea. Bioavailability is improved if the leafy greens are taken along with oil or cholesterol.1

In general, foods rich in carotenoids include yams, kale, spinach, carrots, watermelon, butternut squash, cantaloupe, bell peppers, broccoli, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mangoes, oranges, and apricots.


Lutein is mostly found around the edges of the retina and is responsible for peripheral and night vision. Some lutein is in the center of the retina, and to a lesser extent in the iris and lens. Lutein is a dietary carotenoid, meaning that it can be taken in from food sources. Main food sources are dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach, as well as yellow carrots, eggs, and corn.  We recommend 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw dark leafy greens every day, every meal in our Vision Diet.


Another essential dietary carotenoid is zeaxanthin, which accumulates primarily around the edges of the retina’s center, the macula. The macula is responsible for sharp central and close-up vision. Like lutein, primary food sources are the dark leafy greens, as well as corn, eggs, and paprika.


Mesozeaxanthin accumulates in the center of the macula, the fovea.  The fovea is responsible for the sharpest central vision. Mesozeaxanthin is formed directly in the retina from lutein rather than being created from food sources, so if lutein levels are insufficient, then mesozeaxanthin levels will also be insufficient.

Carotenoid benefits

  • Protect against AMD. Lutein2 and zeaxanthin3 help prevent the onset of macular degeneration (AMD). Retinal tissue thinning is observed in patients with AMD, and these macular pigments help to maintain macular tissue thickness.
  • Protect against blue light. Lutein and zeaxanthin help protect against damaging blue light that causes oxidative stress.4
  • Visual processing speed improvement. Macular pigment density, supported by lutein and zeaxanthin, is also significantly related to multiple measures of temporal processing speed5 (the maximum speed at which the visual system can detect changes), an important aspect of sensory and cognitive function.
  • Protect from other eye diseases. These macular pigments are linked to a lowered risk of cataracts, diabetic retinopathy,6
  • In utero visual system development. These carotenoids support development of the visual system in babies who are not yet born as well as throughout life.7
  • Anti-cancer. Lutein and zeaxanthin, according to some observational studies, may possess a range of biological properties including anti-cancer actions, possibly in breast8 and lung cancer, as well as preventing heart disease and stroke.9 Lutein displays growth inhibitory and cytotoxic effects in several cancer cell lines and animal models.10
  • Memory, attention, and processing speed. In a 2019 6-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, these three carotenoids were linked to improvements in standard measurements of composite memory, verbal memory, psychomotor speed, processing speed, and sustained attention.11
  • Protect the brain. An example of the brain functionality association is that case-control studies show a link between Parkinson’s disease risk12 and progression.13
  • Protect the immune system. These carotenoids play an important role in the maintenance of our immune system.14

As we get older …

As we get older, our ability to absorb nutrients from food wanes for many reasons.  Having a great diet is essential, but it may not be enough.  Therefore it might be a good idea to supplement your diet with these essential vision nutrients:

Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula – our whole food, organic, GMO-free formula with lutein and zeaxanthin.

Dr. Grossman’s Meso Plus Retinal Support and Computer Eye Strain Formula with Astaxanthin 90 vcaps -with lutein, zeaxanthin, mesozeaxanthin, and astaxanthin OR

The combo package Advanced Eye & Vision Support & Meso Plus Formula with Astaxanthin (3-mo. Combo)

Dr. Grossman’s Whole Food Organic Superfood Multi-Vitamin 120 Vcaps – this formula is whole food based, organic and GMO free  OR

Dr. Grossman’s Whole Food Combo 2-Month Special – includes 2 bottles of the Advanced Eye and Vision Support formula and 2 bottles of Dr. Grossman’s Whole Food Organic Superfood Multivitamin.


  1. Bernstein PS, Li B, Vachali PP, Gorusupudi A, Shyam R. (2016). Lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin: The basic and clinical science underlying carotenoid-based nutritional interventions against ocular disease. Prog Retin Eye Res. Jan;50:34-66.
  2. Torrey G. (2019). Lutein May Decrease Risk of Macular Degeneration. Retrieved Jan 25 2022 from
  3. Bernstein PS, Zhao DY, Wintch SW, Ermakov IV, McClane RW, et al. (2002). Resonance Raman measurement of macular carotenoids in normal subjects and in age-related macular degeneration patients. Ophthalmology. Oct;109(10):1780-7.
  4. Bian Q, Gao S, Zhou J, Qin J, Taylor A, et al. (2012). Lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation reduces photooxidative damage and modulates the expression of inflammation-related genes in retinal pigment epithelial cells. Free Radic Biol Med. Sep 15;53(6):1298-307.
  5. Bovier ER, Renzi LM, Hammond BR Jr. (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on neural processing speed and efficiency. PLoS One. 2014; 9(9):e108178.
  6. Johra FT, Bepari AK, Bristy AT, Reza HM. (2020). A Mechanistic Review of β-Carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin in Eye Health and Disease. Antioxidants (Basel). Oct 26;9(11):1046.
  7. Mares J. (2016). Lutein and Zeaxanthin Isomers in Eye Health and Disease. Annu Rev Nutr. Jul 17;36:571-602.
  8. Eliassen AH, Hendrickson SJ, Brinton LA, Buring JE, Campos H, et al. (2012). Circulating carotenoids and risk of breast cancer: pooled analysis of eight prospective studies. J Natl Cancer Inst. Dec 19; 104(24):1905-16.
  9. Milani A, Basirnejad M, Shahbazi S, Bolhassani A. (2017). Carotenoids: biochemistry, pharmacology and treatment. Br J Pharmacol. Jun;174(11):1290-1324.
  10. Sindhu ER, Firdous AP, Ramnath V, Kuttan R. (2013). Effect of carotenoid lutein on N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced hepatocellular carcinoma and its mechanism of action. Eur J Cancer Prev. Jul; 22(4):320-7.
  11. Stringham NT, Holmes PV, Stringham JM. (2019). Effects of macular xanthophyll supplementation on brain-derived neurotrophic factor, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and cognitive performance. Physiol Behav. Nov 1;211:112650.
  12. Takeda A, Nyssen OP, Syed A, Jansen E, Bueno-de-Mesquita B, et al. (2014). Vitamin A and carotenoids and the risk of Parkinson’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroepidemiology. 2014;42(1):25-38.
  13. Agarwal P, Wang Y, Buchman AS, Holland TM, Bennett D, et al. (2020). Dietary Antioxidants Associated with Slower Progression of Parkinsonian Signs in Older Adults. Nutr Neurosci. May 22;1-8.
  14. Ibid. Milani. (2017).