Mesozeaxanthin: Star of Macular Carotenoids

carotenoid supplements and foodsMesozeaxanthin, less well-known than lutein and zeaxanthin, is the most powerful antioxidant of the threesome, but the combined trio presents the most potent protection for the eye than any of the three carotenoids alone.1  Out of all of the roughly 7000 carotenoids known in nature, it is these three that are found in great concentrations in the macula, the key part of the retina, responsible for central vision.


Carotenoids are fat-soluble plant pigments, primarily yellow, orange, or red, which color plant flowers, leaves, and fruit. They are the primary pigments in the macula, at the center of the retina. Carotenoids protect the macula from damage by blue light, improve visual acuity and scavenge harmful reactive oxygen species. They have also been linked with reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.2

Macular Pigment

Lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin accumulate in the central retina, where they are collectively known as macular pigment.   Each dominates in specific parts of the retina:  mesozeaxanthin is found in the center of the macular, zeaxanthin in the mid-periphery and lutein along the outside edge of the macula.3

Macular pigment is essential for best visual performance. It

    • strongly protects against blue light,
    • protects photoreceptors from damage,
    • modulates light intensity and “blue haze” (temporary vision disturbances),
    • exhibits strong antioxidant properties, and
    • protects against macular degeneration.4


Lutein has long been recognized for its value in reducing macular degeneration damage (AMD). Diets rich in lutein reduce AMD risk by 57%.5

Treatment with lutein helps thicken the protective pigmented layer of the retina. Retinas with AMD have 30% less lutein than healthy retinas, and lutein reduces deterioration from early (dry) to more severe (wet) AMD.6 This powerful antioxidant is found both in the lens of the eye and retina, and it helps protect the eyes from damage due to sunlight exposure by filtering out light.7


When zeaxanthin is added to lutein the benefits are greater. The combination provides greater antioxidant protection, greater blue light filtering capacity, anti-inflammatory action, and food for the brain.8

Zeaxanthin inhibits amyloid beta aggregation in the brain in the case of conditions like Alzheimer’s,9 and when combined with lutein, reduces Alzheimer’s mortality.10


Mesozeaxanthin is actually the most potent of the three carotenoids.  It is found in the macula and in tissue of certain marine organisms. Not much mesozeaxanthin (MZ) is derived directly from food sources, but the body can convert lutein to MZ, and it is now readily available in supplements. Researchers have been exploring just how MZ confers its benefits.

As an antioxidant, mesozeaxanthin is more powerful than lutein or zeaxanthin and works with them to support retinal health. Wikipedia reports, “In recent years […] studies have shown that the addition of meso-zeaxanthin to formulations used to increase [macular pigment] and enhance visual function in diseased and non-diseased retinas has proven very effective. Indeed, six head-to-head trials have shown that a formulation containing all three macular carotenoids in a meso-zeaxanthin:lutein:zeaxanthin (mg) ratio of 10:10:2 is superior to alternative formulations.”11

Research results suggest that mesozeaxanthin protects the retina and modulates oxidative stress in retinas of rats on a high fat diet.  It accomplishes this by reducing retinal oxidation of lipids (fats) and regulating biochemicals that promote growth factors (signaling molecules that trigger various specific cell activities) and transcription factors (proteins involved in converting RNA to DNA).12

Mesozeaxanthin also has anti-inflammatory  and anti-cancer properties.  Researchers report that it protects against fatty liver syndrome and cardio-metabolic syndrome, perhaps by regulating certain proteins.13

Whether mesozeaxanthin is primarily created from lutein is actually controversial according to one review.  The authors contend that to assume that “retinal MZ is derived wholly or solely from retinal lutein is unsafe.” They recommend further investigation into likely sources of MZ from foods using the most modern techniques.14

Recommended Products

Dr. Grossman’s Meso Plus Retinal Support and Computer Eye Strain Formula 90 vcaps – contains lutein, zeaxanthin, mesozeaxanthin and astaxanthin, a highly potent antioxidant for eye, brain and overall health.

ReVision Formula – this wild-crafted herbal formula is based on a classic Liver patent formula used in Chinese medicine for overall eye and body health. Helps improve the free flow of energy and circulation in the eyes and throughout the body.

Dr. Grossman’s Bilberry/Ginkgo Combination 2oz (60ml) – This combination of herbs help strengthen circulation, blood vessels and night vision. These antioxidants scavenge the body for free radicals, with the intention of helping to prevent or reverse damaged cells.

Advanced Eye and Vision Support (whole food, organic, GMO free) Formula – This is our foundation eye formula for overall eye health. It is organic, whole food based and GMO free.

Recommended Books

Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing – This 799 page book, Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing, is a comprehensive guide to 48 vision conditions, supported by more than 2000 research studies and 48 color illustrations. Topics include diet, exercise, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, yoga, qigong, essential oils and much more.

Natural Brain Support: Your Guide to Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Other Related Diseases Naturally – Keeping your brain healthy naturally for those at risk for or have Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia is based on over 3,000 peer reviewed studies.

  1. Li B, Ahmed F, Bernstein PS. (2010-12-01). Studies on the singlet oxygen scavenging mechanism of human macular pigment. Arc Biochem Biophys. 504(1):56–60.
  2. Abdel-Aal EM, Akhtar H, Zaheer K, Ali R. (2013). Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients. Apr 9;5(4):1169-85.
  3. Nolan JM, Meagher K, Kashani S, Beatty S. (2013). What is meso-zeaxanthin, and where does it come from? Eye (Lond). Aug;27(8):899-905.
  4. Ibid. Nolan. (2013).
  5. Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, Hiller R, Blair N. et al. (1994). Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. JAMA, Nov 9;272(18):1413-20.
  6. Landrum JT, Bone RA, Kilburn MD. (1997). The Macular Pigment: A Possible Role in Protection from Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Adv Pharmacol. 38:537-56.
  7. Ferrigno L, Aldigeri R, Rosmini F, Sperduto RD, Maraini G, et al. (2005). Associations between plasma levels of vitamins and cataract in the Italian-American Clinical Trial of Nutritional Supplements and Age-Related Cataract (CTNS): CTNS Report #2. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. Apr;12(2):71-80.
  8. Demmig-Adams B, López-Pozo M, Stewart JJ, Adams WW. (2020). Zeaxanthin and Lutein: Photoprotectors, Anti-Inflammatories, and Brain Food. Molecules. 2020 Aug 8;25(16):3607.
  9. Lakey-Beitia J, Doens D, Jagadeesh Kumar D, Murillo E, Fernandez PL, et al. (2017). Anti-amyloid aggregation activity of novel carotenoids: implications for Alzheimer’s drug discovery. Clin Interv Aging. May 15;12:815-822.
  10. Min JY, Min KB. (2014). Serum lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease mortality in older adults. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014;37(3-4):246-56.
  11. Meso-zeaxanthin. Wikipedia. Retrieved Jul 20, 2021 from
  12. Orhan C, Akdemir F, Tuzcu M, Sahin N, Yilmaz I, et al. (2016). Mesozeaxanthin Protects Retina from Oxidative Stress in a Rat Model. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. Nov;32(9):631-637.
  13. Sahin K, Orhan C, Akdemir F, Tuzcu M, Sahin N. (2017). Mesozeaxanthin protects the liver and reduces cardio-metabolic risk factors in an insulin resistant rodent model. Food Nutr Res. Jul 18;61(1):1353360.
  14. Ibid. Nolan. (2013).