What is Zeaxanthin?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2019
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Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid compound found in the retina of the eye. In the macula, an area in the center of the retina, there are high concentrations of zeaxanthin, with lower concentrations of lutein, a related compound. In the rest of the retina, lutein predominates, with lesser levels of zeaxanthin. There are a number of dietary sources for this compound, and most people eating a balanced diet get all the zeaxanthin they need to stay healthy. It is also possible to take supplements.

Studies conducted on the eye seem to suggest that zeaxanthin can play an important role in eye health. People who consume six to 10 milligrams a day of this compound are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, and appear to be less likely to suffer from cataracts. Since these conditions are commonly associated with aging, many people are interested in knowing how to prevent them, and the zeaxanthin and lutein studies have therefore attracted a great deal of attention.


Paprika, corn, saffron, and a variety of other veggies are rich in this compound, which is also used as a food dye in some regions of the world. Eating vitamin C with zeaxanthin appears to increase the body's ability to absorb it. People who think that they may not get enough of this compound through their diet can take standalone supplements or combination supplements which include it. Consumers may want to know that it is usually safe to take more than the recommended daily allowance.

This compound works in the eye in a number of ways. It seems to protect the eye from photo damage by filtering out certain types of light, and it also protects from oxidation, a common cause of damage associated with aging. Zeaxanthin may also be involved in the vascular health of the eye; without good circulation, the eye can be vulnerable to infection and other types of damage.

People who are interested in protecting their eye health with products such as zeaxanthin and lutein supplements should also make sure that they are under the care of an ophthalmologist. Regular eye exams are an important part of eye care, as they can be used to identify problems with the eyes in the early stages, at which point it is easier to intervene to prevent continuing damage. Regular eye exams can also be important as they may catch symptoms of an underlying disease which would otherwise go unaddressed until it was too late.


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Post 3

@NathanG - I don’t know the specific Zeaxanthin vitamin supplement that you’re referring to so I can’t say for sure. In general supplements do not reverse diseases.

I think the packaging on the supplement makes clear that it won’t do that. However, as you age I think you should start taking vitamin supplements that have antioxidants for your heart health and of course anything related to eyesight and mental acuity. Prevention is the best cure in these matters in my opinion.

Post 2

@David09 - On the radio there is an advertisement for a supplement that is supposed to beat macular degeneration. The late Paul Harvey used to endorse it.

I didn’t know what was in it but after reading this article I’ll bet that it has the Zeaxanthine in it, among other nutrients. What I am not sure about is if this is meant to be preventive or a cure.

In other words, can you take such supplements after you’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration to slow or reverse the course of the disease?

Post 1

I notice that carrots are not listed in the zeaxanthin foods which contain this supplement. I had always read that carrots were good for your eyes.

I believe that this is still the case. They have carotenoids, but they may not have the Zeaxanthin carotenoid compound. You’ll have to get that from the other vegetable sources in the list.

I have tended to avoid things like corn because it’s a starchy vegetable but after reading this list I am going to put that back in my diet. I think the key is to eat a variety of vegetables if you want the best health protection.

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