Tag Archives: supplements

Meso-Zeaxanthin: The Third Carotenoid

What is it, and do I need it?

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) was a 5 year study  published in 2013.  Notably, in this second study, was the addition of two carotenoids as part of the supplement group.  The carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin.  The conclusion of the study was that these two carotenoids helped limit the progression of AMD.  Lutein and zeaxanthin  are concentrated in the macula of the retina where they  provide protection, by the absorption of light and anti-oxidant activity, and thereby aid in the function of the macula.

Studies have shown that it is not just lutein and zeaxanthin that provide support to the retina, but there is a third carotenoid, meso-zeaxanthin that needs to be present for optimum anti-oxidant effect.

Scientists indicate that meso-zeaxanthin is made from lutein.  The question arises; have you ingested enough lutein and is it converted to the  meso-zeaxanthin form in sufficient amounts to make enough macular pigment to provide protection to the macula?

Although it is thought that some of the meso-zeaxanthin is derived from lutein, the rest needs to be derived from foods. Food sources are fruits, vegetables (green and yellow), whole grains, egg yolks, and fatty fish (Rainbow trout and salmon, especially the skin).  We can never be really sure how much of the vital carotenoids we are getting, even from what we think is a nutritious diet.  In an age where our foods are produced by farm “factories” and may be genetically modified, the nutritional value may not be what we expect.  That is where supplementation becomes important for those with critical needs to maintain ocular and general health.  Supplementing the diet directly with MZ (safely) can prevent the macula from becoming deficient.

Biochemistry is complicated.  The AREDS2 found that the beta-carotene had the capability of competing with, and therefore decreasing the absorption of lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.  So do not take them together.  (Note; AREDS supplement formula has beta-carotene, whereas AREDS2 does not have beta-carotene, but does have lutein and zeaxanthin).

Studies have shown that there is a drop in macular pigment decades before the onset of  macular degeneration.  There is a bonus to supplementing with the carotenoids; multiple studies have found that test subjects who supplemented with carotenoids not only increased macular pigment, but also experienced improved cognitive function.  Even young college students in one study benefited from carotenoid supplements. The trend is that eye doctors are now recommending to their patients who have macular degeneration and those at risk for developing MD, supplements which include lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.

Be aware, when shopping for eye vitamins, the most popular AREDS and AREDS2 formulass do not include meso-zeaxanthin.


For the Mind, Body, and Eyes

We are living longer than our ancestors did less than one hundred years ago.  Diseases associated with old age in the past were rare, like cognitive impairments, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer, but are now more common in an aging population.  It can also be said that macular degeneration is on the rise because of the increase number of those living to be older.

Normal retina: central macula and optic nerve

It is not known yet how the eyes of the younger generation will fair after decades of chronic blue light exposure emitted from technology.  Medical professionals question their risk for retinal damage and macular degeneration.

So as the population ages, what can be done to decrease the risk for age-related eye diseases?  What can the individual do to help themselves to maintain good ocular health?

“Food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

Macular degeneration with drusen

Ideally, our doctors would like to know that their patients are eating healthy and nutritious foods for both ocular and general medical health.  What the famous AREDS (age-related eye disease study) studies showed us is that nutrition makes a difference.  In the case of this study, the improvements were modest but improvements nonetheless.

Eating healthful foods with adequate

Diabetic retinopathy with hemorrhages

nutritional proportions is not always easy It is the rare individual who spends time evaluating the quality and nutritional benefits of the foods they eat each day.  What we eat is limited by time of year, geography, preferences, and availability.  That is where supplements come in.  Not everyone eats fish (for omega 3s) or likes leafy green vegetables.  What you need to do is to look at what may be missing in your diet.  Talk to a dietitian or a naturopath.

Adequate nutrition with supplementation serves us 3 ways:

  1. optimize your vision and physical health,
  2. disease prevention, and
  3. reduce progression of macular disease.

Lifestyle changes

The concept of movement as exercise is nothing new.  Many athletic types have made lots of money showing us how to exercise.  TV doctors and talk show hosts all expound on the benefits of exercise.  It does make a difference both for eye health and general health.  Many health problems such as  high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are linked to eye disease.  What is good for the body is good for the eyes.

Here is how it helps the eyes.

Exercise increases blood flow, resulting in more blood perfusion to the eye.  This can help reduce the risk for glaucoma and increase oxygen and nutrients to a macula which may be degenerating.  Those suffering from diabetes are encouraged to exercise to control blood sugar, which in turn helps to reduce the risk for diabetic retinopathy.

Stop Smoking!

Here we go…another reason to stop smoking.  Quitting smoking reduces your risk for some eye diseases.  Those who smoke are more likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age.  It is known that smoking effects blood vessel function, and anything that effects blood flow will impact the very tiny blood vessels that feed the very sensitive macula.  Smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration.

UV Protection 

Cortical cataracts

We apply onscreen lotions with SPF (sun protection factors) to prevent sunburns to the skin.  Think of sunglasses as SPF for the eyes.  Good quality sunglass lenses will protect against 100% of the tissue damaging ultra violet rays.  Bigger lenses are better, not only to protect the lens and retina of the eye, but also protects the delicate tissues around the eyes.

Studies have shown that chronic, long-term  UV light exposure can cause early

Non -cancerous conjunctival growth: pinguecula

onset of cataracts and macular degeneration later in life.  Exposure of the conjunctiva (whites of the eyes)and eyelids can result in growths and worst yet…cancers.

Visible light spectrum

The Blue Light Hazard

Both young and old who use technology chronically for long periods of time, as many of us do, need to be aware of the potential for eye damage due to exposure to blue light.  This is not the ultra violet invisible ‘light’, it is the high energy visible blue light.  Eye doctors are concerned that excessive exposure over an extensive period of time to high energy blue light will cause retinal degeneration.

Consider reducing time spent on digital devices.  For those who need to , there are computer screen filters which can be purchased to reduce blue light.  Eye glass lenses are made, which filter out specific wavelengths of blue light, thought to be the most damaging.  You would need to ask your eye doctor or optician for these specialty lenses.

Finally, there is an app for that!  Type in to your browser or app store:. blue light filter for…Apple, Windows, Android, Mac, Chrome, etc.  As a bonus, blue light filters can also help with computer eyestrain and difficulty getting to sleep after an extensive period of computer viewing in the evening.

You only have one set of eyes, take care of them.


Co enzyme q10

Co q10 is a molecule of the ubiquinone family of compounds . The ubiquinones are substances that are found throughout the body, hence the term  “ubiquitous”. It is not considered a vitamin because it can be made by the body. Coenzyme q10 is found in cell membranes, where it has two functions: (1) it is an essential compound used by the cell to form energy in the form of ATP, from carbohydrates to be used by the cell,  (2) it is  involved in free radical scavenging. Continue reading Co enzyme q10

The Carotenoid: Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is a nutrient of the carotenoid group. Previously, I discussed the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The carotenoids are important as a nutrient for their anti-oxidant capability to neutralize free radicals, made by the process of cellular metabolism, that have the potential to damage cells. This has important implications for those with eye disease, as a supplement to decrease cellular damage. Continue reading The Carotenoid: Astaxanthin


Crocus salivus, saffron flower
Crocus salivus, saffron flower

Saffron is the spice derived from the three stigmas (red colored threads about 25-30 mm long) of the crocus flower. Not the same crocus we grow here in the States, which blooms in the spring, but a crocus grown predominantly in the Middle East. This variety of crocus (Crocus sativus) blooms in the Fall. The world’s largest  producer of saffron is Iran. Because it takes thousands of flowers to produce an ounce of saffron, it is very expensive at about $30. USD an ounce. Continue reading Saffron

The Flavonoids, Bilberry

Bilberry is a small fruit berry found growing wild on scrubs in Europe. It is dark in color, purplish-blue and is similar to the blueberries found in the United States, but is actually more closely related to huckleberries. It is the dark purplish-blue color that is the active ingredient of bilberries, called anthocyanin.  Anthocyanin is one of the organic substances of the Flavoinoid class of antioxidants. Anti-oxidants react with damaging free radicals in our bodies to prevent or reverse cell damage that can lead to disease. These same substances are also found in berries such as raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, and sour cherries. Bilberry is notable for having the highest concentration of anthocyanin meaning it has powerful anti-oxidant capability. Continue reading The Flavonoids, Bilberry

Eye Vitamins: Turmeric and Curcumin

Turmeric is known as the “golden spice,” for its bright orange-yellow color. It is derived from an underground stalk, called a rhizome, of a tropical plant, much like ginger. It is one of the spices common to curry powder and is a staple in Indian cooking.  It has long been used for its medicinal properties in ancient Indian medicine because of its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory,  neuroprotective, and anti-cancer effects.  Curcumin is the active ingredient of turmeric. It is the curcumin which has the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. The curcuminoids account for about 2 – 9% of turmeric. The spice is also a source of vitamin C and magnesium. Continue reading Eye Vitamins: Turmeric and Curcumin

Eye Vitamins: The Antioxidant, Vitamin C

While vitamin C is one of many antioxidants, it is a nutrient that is important to many biochemical reactions in the body and is essential for overall health and is considered to have an anti-aging effect.  It is an essential antioxidant which scavenges for those free radicals produced by the body’s metabolic activity and environmental  attacks to reduce oxidative stress. It is crucial for cardiovascular health, supports the immune system, and nerve cell function. Continue reading Eye Vitamins: The Antioxidant, Vitamin C

Eye Vitamins: The Carotenoids

Vitamin A, Beta-carotene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin

The category of  vitamin carotenoids is a vast group of biochemicals essential for biological function of immunity, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and vision.  We are concerned here only with the 4 known to be vital for the eye health and functioning. Those are bera-carotene, vitamin A (retinol), lutein, and zeaxanthin. Continue reading Eye Vitamins: The Carotenoids