Zeaxanthin May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

Zeaxanthin May Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

One of the most prominent displays of nature and human integration involves the carotenoid, zeaxanthin (zee·uh·zan·thn). A carotenoid is a plant pigment consisting mainly of red, yellow, or orange producing compounds which gives plant-life color. From an autumn leaf to a red tomato, carotenoids not only add to the spectacular color show of nature but these powerful compounds also correlate with human sight. 

Zeaxanthin, one of the most common carotenoids in nature, is found to naturally accumulate on the retina. The retina, particularly the macular pigment within the retina, is where macular degeneration develops. It has been shown that when zeaxanthin levels are low, macular degeneration is present. 

In addition to zeaxanthin contributing to plant colors, it is also a very potent antioxidant and it seems as though the human body, particularly the retina, thrives on taking advantage of zeaxanthin consumption for sight protection. This is why zeaxanthin supplements may help prevent macular degeneration.

Medical AMD Treatment Combines Zeaxanthin

Recent results of a 5 year study presented at the American Society of Retina Specialists 2020 (ASRS 2020) Virtual Sessions, as reported by HCP Live, shows how including the supplement zeaxanthin alongside pharmaceutical AMD (age-related macular degeneration) treatment was surprisingly effective. 

The study reviewed 445 eyes of 337 patients with sub-foveal choroidal neovascularization, secondary to neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Treatment included the following AMD pharmaceuticals:

  • Reduced-fluence (25mJ) photodynamic therapy with verteporfin
  • Intravitreal and periocular steroids
  • 4 monthly injections of intravitreal bevacizumab

Added into the mix was 20 mg of daily oral zeaxanthin. 

It was reported that,

“At 5 years of follow up, 55% of eyes treated had either stable or improved visual acuity…Adding oral zeaxanthin reduced the risk of neovascular age-related macular degeneration in the fellow eye compared to previously reported cases. Zeaxanthin’s protective effect was also greater with time. The four- and five-year conversions to neovascular age-related macular degeneration in fellow eyes were significantly less than those in previously published, long-term studies.”

According to lead researcher Dr. Joseph Olk, principal investigator and partner at The Retina Center of St. Louis,

“This clinical trial confirms that triple therapy supplementation with oral zeaxanthin yields a visual result superior to triple therapy alone,”

The collaborative meshing between synthetic and natural remedies is a good leap in the right direction of incorporating more natural than synthetic choices. Increasing zeaxanthin intake is probably one of the best ways to strengthen your eyesight, even if you are afflicted with AMD. 

Zeaxanthin: Dominant Carotenoid

Zeaxanthin is one of the most prominent players in the famed AREDS/AREDS2 eye studies. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 

“The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and AREDS2 are major clinical trials sponsored by the National Eye Institute. The AREDS studies were designed to learn more about the natural history and risk factors of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract and to evaluate the effect of vitamins on the progression of these eye diseases.”

Since the ARED studies, peer reviewed supplemental formulas were developed and continue to be recommended. Zeaxanthin and lutein (yellow carotenoid) are two carotenoids proven to deliver and assist functioning to the retina. 

According to The American Macular Degeneration Association (AMDA) 

“Studies show that the retina contains two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, with the greatest concentration at the center. Within the central macula, zeaxanthin is the dominant component, up to 75% of the total,”

Researchers of the 5 year study presented at the ASRS 2020 chose zeaxanthin for its dominant capability to protect not only the compromised eye but the fellow eye as well. Adding an AREDS formula to your daily supplement protocol can help increase zeaxanthin in your retina and work to prevent or slow macular degeneration. However, consuming more zeaxanthin-rich foods may help as well. 

Natural Zeaxanthin Sources

Supplements can be potent and effective but nothing beats consuming the direct source as a whole food. Adding more fruit and vegetable zeaxanthin rich choices could enhance supplementation for a full spectrum effect. Just like in the eye where zeaxanthin and lutein are found, the same goes for whole foods as they are often found together in fruits and vegetables. 

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA),

“If you are not getting enough lutein and zeaxanthin through your diet alone, consider taking daily supplements. Although there is no recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, most recent studies show health benefits in taking 10 mg/day of a lutein supplement and 2 mg/day of a zeaxanthin supplement.”

Zeaxanthin and lutein (milligrams per food):

Kale (cooked) 1 cup 23.8

Spinach (cooked) 1 cup 20.4

Collards (cooked) 1 cup 14.6 

Turnip greens (cooked) 1 cup 12.2

Spinach (raw) 1 cup 3.8

Corn (can or cooked) 1 cup 2.2

Green peas (canned) 1 cup 2.2

Broccoli (cooked) 1 cup 1.6

Romain lettuce (raw) 1 cup 1.3

Green beans (cooked) 1 cup 0.8

Eggs 2 (large) 0.3

Orange 1 medium 0.2

It is often the dark green leafy vegetables (DGLV’s – kale, spinach, collards) that are recommended for an abundance of health benefits. These are part of the super-food category which are described as high antioxidant potent foods capable of significantly protecting and strengthening cellular function. 

Zeaxanthin was an unassuming, unexpected compound helping human health since the beginning. It wasn’t until real science could decipher this link and use it for the advantage of future health by recommending its use. The studies cited here are some of many that prove zeaxanthin may help prevent macular degeneration. Knowing or sharing this information is essential to potentially avoiding a life filled with prescription drugs and invasive procedures. 

Instead, reap the rewards nature has already (literally) placed inside your body and increase your zeaxanthin intake through both supplements and whole foods. It is an easy preventative or strengthening dietary choice that just may keep you one step ahead of disease and able to see the light rather than fumble through the dark.