Lutein (pronounced LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ya-ZAN-thin) are two of the most abundant members of the carotenoid family. They belong in the the subcategory of the carotenoids named the xanthophylls (pronounced ZAN-tho-fils), along with the antioxidant astaxanthin.
Carotenoids are powerful anti-aging antioxidants, protecting the cells of the body from damage caused by free radicals.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are fat-soluble carotenoids. They are not considered to be provitamin-A compounds, since they are not converted to vitamin A in the body, like beta-carotene is. In nature, you will usually find these two carotenoids together, so they are often combined as supplements, too.
Lutein protects healthy cells in your eyes from damage caused by free radicals. It works along with vitamins C and vitamin E to help reduce your risk of developing age-related cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50. Lutein may also relieve the eye fatigue that comes from looking at a computer screen all day.
Lutein is a unique antioxidant that safeguards your retina from damaging high-energy blue light and free radicals. Lutein builds macular pigment density, a critical factor in the health of the macula and the retina which has the most sensitive and dense nerve network.
The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are dark green leafy vegetables. Egg yolks have the highest concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin among all foods. See my page on foods high in lutein for a complete list.
If you are interested in preventing degenerative eye problems, you might want to check out special antioxidant combinations specially formulated for vision care. These will include mixed carotenoids and other eye nutrients such as vitamin C, E and bilberry, although the amounts of each separate nutrient is probably not going to be high enough to treat existing vision problems effectively. For that, you're probably going to need higher doses.
The best type of lutein supplement is called FloraGLO. It's a highly bioavailable, natural source of lutein extract from marigold flowers, the most abundant source in nature. All lutein supplements contain trace amounts of natural zeaxanthin. Some manufacturers label them separately, but some do not.
Through its patented process, FloraGLO lutein is chemically identical to the lutein found in green vegetables like spinach, kale and broccoli, and it's the same type of lutein used in major clinical studies. FloraGLO lutein is absorbed directly by the body without the need for digestive enzymes.
Some vision nutrients and multivitamins use a cheaper form of lutein called lutein esters, which are more difficult for your body to absorb.
How Much Lutein Do You Need Daily? Research has suggested a minimum of 6-10 mg per day of lutein is necessary to realize lutein’s health benefits. Deficiencies of carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin are not known to directly cause any disease or health condition, at least in the short term. However, a long-term shortage of carotenoids is associated with all types of chronic, degenerative diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Lutein Supplements for Treating Specific Vision Problems. To treat existing eye problems, I'd suggest taking a product that combines lutein and zeaxanthin with bilberry.
Supplements like these should contain 20mg. of lutein and about 1mg. of zeaxanthin, and about 100mg of bilberry per dose. None of these supplements has shown any toxicity.
Consider astaxanthin! Another relatively new discovery for eye problems is the carotenoid astaxanthin. Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. It is one of the few antioxidants that can cross the blood-retinal barrier and bring protection to the eyes. It is said to be more beneficial for the eyes in some ways than lutein. It also works all throughout the body — organs and skin, and in every part of the cell.
Nutrex, the same people who make the finest spirulina on the planet, also make a product called EyeAstin, which combines astaxathin with lutein, zeaxanthin and bilberry.
EyeAstin has superior anti-inflammatory and eye health benefits to help support and enhance eye function, improve night vision, reduce eye fatigue and strain. Click on the product image for more information about EyeAstin.