Zeaxanthin, a member of the carotenoid family, is an essential nutrient that may play a role in supporting eye health and promoting clear vision.* This potent antioxidant is often overshadowed by its close relative, lutein, but it might be equally important for supporting our visual well-being. In this article, we will explore the nutritional value of zeaxanthin, its association with eye health, the role of supplements, and some fascinating facts about this vibrant carotenoid.
What is zeaxanthin?
Zeaxanthin is a fat-soluble nutrient found primarily in colorful fruits and vegetables. It is one of more than 600 carotenoids that give these foods their vivid hues. Rich sources of zeaxanthin include orange and yellow produce like bell peppers, corn, oranges, as well as leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. Zeaxanthin contributes to the antioxidant properties of these foods, helping to neutralize free radicals and protect our bodies from oxidative damage.*
Zeaxanthin and eye health: A clear connection
The human retina contains two primary carotenoids: zeaxanthin and lutein. They are concentrated in the macula, a small area responsible for central vision and visual acuity. Zeaxanthin and lutein may act as natural sunglasses for the eyes, filtering harmful blue light and helping to play a role in oxidative stress.*
A diet rich in zeaxanthin and lutein may play a role on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, two common causes of vision loss in older adults.* Moreover, zeaxanthin may also support visual performance in healthy individuals by reducing glare sensitivity and supporting contrast sensitivity.*
While obtaining zeaxanthin from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is ideal, some people may find it challenging to consume adequate amounts of these foods. In such cases, zeaxanthin supplements may help offer additional intake.
Some research suggests that combining zeaxanthin with lutein daily, may help support macular pigment density and promote eye health.* Supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, and soft gels. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen, particularly if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking medications.
Interesting zeaxanthin facts
- Skin support: Zeaxanthin may contribute to protecting the skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, as it might help minimize oxidative stress in skin cells.*
- Synergy with lutein: Lutein and zeaxanthin may work best in combination. The natural balance found in a healthy macula is approximately 5:1.
- Enhanced absorption with fat: Like lutein, zeaxanthin is fat-soluble, and consuming it with healthy fats, such as avocado or olive oil, can improve its absorption and bioavailability.
Zeaxanthin is an important nutrient that may play a role in supporting eye health and visual performance.* Ensuring a diet rich in zeaxanthin-containing fruits and vegetables, or considering supplementation when necessary, may contribute to supporting a healthy vision for the future.* As more research emerges, the significance of this vibrant carotenoid will continue to gain recognition in the fields of nutrition and health. You can also read about astaxanthin.
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Get professional advice if you think you might need a zeaxanthin supplement or are already taking one to ensure you're not exceeding the amounts you may need.