Lutein and Zeaxanthin Support Healthy Eyes and Fight Macular Degeneration

Macular xanthophylls | Lutein & Zeaxanthin | Zeaxanthin  Lutein Absorption | Role of Antioxidants

Macular xanthophylls

Macular xanthophylls, perhaps better known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are well known for their role as protectors against age related macular degeneration (AMD). Research at the University of Georgia is also finding that lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation can help people with healthy vision. Taking dietary supplements high in lutein and zeaxanthin will boost one’s  ability to deal with glare and helps people recover more quickly from blinding flash of light. One more reason to boost your intake of these great little compounds? They have been linked to improved cognitive health in older adults.
Source: Oral supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin with coantioxidants may improve vision at 36 months for those at high risk for progression to late age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Lutein, Zeaxanthin, C, E & Zinc

This study examined the results of increasing blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin by supplementing with  lutein and zeaxanthin in addition to vitamins C and E and zinc for visual acuity for 433 AMD patients in the UK with early and late stage macular degeneration. The patients’ results were assessed  12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months later.  While there was no statistically significant difference was seen in best corrected distance visual acuity (BC DVA) at 12 months, such significance was seen after 36 months. The conclusion of this study (Carotenoids and Co-Antioxidants in Age-Related Maculopathy) was that supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin  has a better effect  in patients with early AMD.  The researchers also found that higher levels lutein blood levels show a slower progression from early AMD to late AMD.

Lutein & Zeaxanthin from Food Sources

In patients with the highest levels of consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin from leafy greens, eggs, red and yellow peppers, the risk of Macular Degeneration (AMD) was 35% of the risk in people who did not eat abundant leafy greens.  Zinc was also protective.

Source:  J.S. Tan, et al. in Opthalmology, February 2008.

Lutein & Zeaxanthin in Diet

Another study in Australia studied the dietary and supplement intakes of antioxidants and the long-term risk of incident age-related macular degeneration. The results of the study showed those with higher levels of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets had a reduced risk of macular degeneration.

Source: Centre for Vision Research, University of Sydney, Australia, 2008

Lutein Absorption Enhanced by Vitamin C

Yet another study has determined that the valuable benefits of lutein are enhanced by supplementation of vitamin C in fighting macular degeneration. In order to consume the levels of lutein discussed in the above studies which are recommended for good eye health supplementation is often helpful.  Results from a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggest that it may be beneficial to take supplements of lutein along with vitamin C. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin gave young healthy men and women supplements of lutein alone, or supplements of lutein combined with vitamins C or E.  It was noted that absorption of lutein varied greatly among individuals, regardless of whether they had taken lutein alone or with vitamins C or E.  However, it was determined that lutein was absorbed significantly faster when given simultaneously with vitamin C. Learn about lutein and vitamin C supplements, as well as food sources for nutrients essential to good eye health.

Source:  “Lutein absorption is facilitated with co-supplementation of ascorbic acid in young adults”, Tanumihardjo, et al, J Am Dietetic Assoc 105:114-18, 2005.


Another study shows that supplementing with zeaxanthin can raises macula pigment optical density (MP) and has unique visual benefits for patients with atrophic early AMD having visual symptoms. Zeaxanthin can be found in dark, leafy greens (like turnip greens, collard greens, kale, spinach and romaine lettuce). Orange peppers are the highest source of zeaxanthin.

The Zeaxanthin and Visual Function Study in Atrophic Age Related Macular Degeneration (ZVF-FDA IND #78,973) – MP and Foveal Shape Discrimination: S.P. Richer1, W. Stiles1, M. Lavin, K. Graham1, C. Thomas1, D. Park3. J. Nyland1, J Wrobel

Why Antioxidants Fight Macular Degeneration

A study from Cornell and Brigham Young Universities shows why eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help hold off macular degeneration’s damage to central vision. Researchers determined that two processes in the retina, combined, contribute to a higher risk of developing macular degeneration. They found that a compound labeled A2E accumulates and damages the mitochondria of cells – the part of the cell which converts nutrients to energy.  A2E is a byproduct of cell activity which is not naturally broken down or removed through the body’s natural elimination processes. The combination of accumulated A2E and free radicals which have accumulated due to exposure to sunlight the work of mitochondria is disrupted.   This means that the cell has less energy available for the normal processes of removing toxins, maintaining health of retina, macula, photoreceptor and other cells of the eye.  This in turn results in even greater A2E accumulation. The role of antioxidants is that they disrupt the destructive cycle and support  the health of, and consequently, the lifetime of cells in the eye which cannot be replaced. “The implication is that people at risk of macular degeneration could help prevent the disease by consuming antioxidants,” said BYU chemist Heidi Vollmer-Snarr. Researchers: Brigham Young University and Weill Medical College of Cornell University Published: Journal of Biological Chemistry, September, 2008

Macular xanthophylls | Lutein & Zeaxanthin |  Lutein Absorption | Role of Antioxidants  

Other sources:

Women’s Health Study. Archives of Ophthalmology (Arch. Ophthalmol. 2008;126:102-9)

Moeller SM et al. Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Lutein and Zeaxanthin in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS). Archives of Ophthalmology 124:1151-1162, 2006.

Lutein & Glare

A new study indicates that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin may help improve vision under glare conditions such as bright sunlight or the beams of car headlights.

Scientists at the Vision Science Laboratory at the University of Georgia recently studied the relationship of lutein and zeaxanthin on macular pigment (MP), glare disability, and photostress recovery.

The macula helps filter damaging light rays. When the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin in the macula is higher, the higher density of macular pigment enables the macula to absorb the light rays more efficiently.

Researchers studied forty healthy subjects (average age of 23.9) for six months, giving assessments at baseline, 1, 2, 4, and 6 months. Subjects were given 12mg daily of lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.

After 6 months, the lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation was shown to significantly reduce the negative effects of glare for both the visual performance tasks assessed for most of the subjects.

SOURCE: “Macular pigment and visual performance under glare conditions”, Stringham and Hammond, Optom Vis Sci., 2008 Feb;85(2):82-8