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Not all Zeaxanthin is alike

Zeaxanthin and Lutein are the two carotenoids found in the macula of the eye. Two isomers of Zeaxanthin are present in it: the RR and the RS. The RR has a dietary origin; the RS is manufactured in situ from lutein. Years of scientific research point to the important role of Zeaxanthin in eye health.

There is only one isomer, the 3R 3’R, that has met the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for new dietary ingredients (NDI).

Non-dietary stereoisomers of Zeaxanthin (3R 3’S, 3S 3’S) are manufactured through the chemical alteration of lutein. These non-dietary stereoisomers are not found in the food supply unless they have been specifically added and have not undergone adequate  efficacy trials. Research indicates lower bioavailability of these isomers possibly due to the fact they are not a normal dietary component and not normally found in serum. Variant forms of Zeaxanthin are not the same physically or functionally, may act differently in the eye, and are commonly mislabeled, from FDA’s point of view, as “Zeaxanthin.”

What is Zeaxanthin?
Zeaxanthin is a nutrient found in nature as colorants or pigment. It is also found naturally in the body, predominantly in the eyes and brain. A powerful natural antioxidant, Zeaxanthin protects the eye by absorbing damaging blue light and reducing glare. Blue light can cause harmful oxidative stress in the eye. Zeaxanthin protects cells and membranes by reducing harmful free radicals. In effect, it “cleanses” the macula.

Zeaxanthin is not "made" in the human body and must come from food or dietary supplements. Receiving adequate amounts of Zeaxanthin through food can be particularly difficult, as it requires many servings a day of certain fruits and vegetables. Only one Zeaxanthin form (3R, 3’R) is naturally found in fruits and vegetables and it is one the body prefers. Zeaxanthin is 5 to 10 times less common than lutein in human blood and 10 to 20 times less common in the average diet. Other forms, like Meso-Zeaxanthin, cannot be considered a dietary supplement, as they are not found in our average diet.

Zeaxanthin is found in vegetables such as kale, peppers, spinach, turnips and corn, among others. It is also present in fruits, particularly citrus, fruits such as oranges, tangerines, mangos and nectarines.

Marigolds, peppers and Chinese berries are also sources of Zeaxanthin. Specially bred marigolds and peppers, contain high amounts of Zeaxanthin.

The carotenoids are extracted, purified and tested. After formulating these “ingredients” into the final product, it’s then sold to manufacturers who produce dietary supplements available at drug and health food stores.

Zeaxanthin can also be synthetically manufactured, the chemical process yields an ‘identical to nature’ product .

What is Meso-Zeaxanthin and how is it different?
Meso-Zeaxanthin is an isomer of Zeaxanthin. Isomers are substances that are composed of the same elements in the same quantity, but have different properties. As such, Meso-Zeaxanthin, because it is an isomer, is not found in a daily diet. It is found in the macula, however. That’s because when there is not enough 3R, 3’R Zeaxanthin available to the eye, the body will produce Meso-Zeaxanthin from lutein found in the eye. However, this production by the body of Meso-Zeaxanthin from lutein found in the eye can falter with age.

Meso-Zeaxanthin is available in dietary supplements but more often than not it is not clearly labeled. Additionally, there is limited clinical and safety information available on Meso-Zeaxanthin.

Why zeaxanthin should be 
included in diet

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