Zeaxanthin: What It Is, What It Serves For, Rich Benefits And Foods
Zeaxanthin and also lutein are natural pigments found in yellow, red, orange and green foods. They are carotenoids, natural compounds that work together to promote the process of photosynthesis in plants, controlling the absorption of light to prevent excess sunlight, especially ultraviolet rays, from causing damage.
To find out what zeaxanthin is for in humans, its benefits and foods rich in this carotenoid, follow the information below.
What exactly is zeaxanthin?
Zeaxanthin is a disease-fighting compound produced naturally in plants and in some animal derivatives that are a source of food for us humans. Our body does not produce this substance, however it needs it for some specific functions like maintaining eye health.
Zeaxanthin is found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye, the part of the eye responsible for central vision, necessary for vision management and focus on reading.
It is a compound with antioxidant properties and thus in the parts of the organism where it is present, it helps to protect against damage caused by free radicals.
Zeaxanthin is usually found along with lutein, another phytochemical with properties closely related to it. Even in many scientific studies, both substances are cited together and their benefits and functions are equated.
What is zeaxanthin used for?
Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid with high antioxidant activity. The foods that make up the richest sources of zeaxanthin include green leaves such as kale, chard, spinach and watercress.
The main function of this carotenoid in the diet is to promote healthy vision, as explained in a monograph entitled Alternative Medicine Review. There are currently researches that support the use of zeaxanthin supplements and also the intake of foods rich in zeaxanthin to treat health conditions including macular degeneration and cataracts.
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Zeaxanthin, along with lutein, acts as a vitamin that migrates into the eyes and is drawn into the lens, macula and penetrates into the center of the retina. In the macula and retina, zeaxanthin helps build a yellow pigment shield that protects the eye cells from dangerous light frequencies. Zeaxanthin also provides powerful antioxidant activity, neutralizing the free radicals that destroy the cells of the eye.
Benefits of Zeaxanthin in the Human Body
1. Acts against macular degeneration
According to the American site All About Vision, specializing in vision studies, age-related macular degeneration, commonly called AMD, is the leading cause of vision loss in people 65 years of age or older in the United States. The macula is a pigmented area, located near the center of the retina, responsible for the acuity of the vision.
In a study published by the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers studied the effect of dietary carotenoid consumption on age-related macular degeneration. The authors found that a diet rich in carotenoids may be associated with a lower risk of AMD. The team of researchers commented that among the specific carotenoids, zeaxanthin was strongly associated with reduced risk of age-related incidence of macular degeneration.
A large study called AREDS2 also showed that supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin may delay the progression of macular degeneration after the condition already started.
O National Eye Institute, a US institute of vision research, said that if supplementation of zeaxanthin was widespread among individuals at risk of developing AMD, over a five-year period vision loss could be prevented in more than 300,000 people over 55 years of age. age.
2. Prevents the incidence of cataract
Cataracts occur when the transparent lens of the eye becomes opaque, preventing vision. Symptoms of cataracts include blurred or poor vision, light sensitivity, double vision, and poor night vision. In a study published by Archives of Ophthalmology, the researchers studied the relationship between carotenoid intake and vitamins C and E and the risk of cataract in women. The team found that a high intake of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin E from foods and supplements was associated with a significantly reduced risk of cataract incidence.
Another study found that people with diets rich in zeaxanthin-rich foods, especially spinach, cabbage, and broccoli, are up to 50 percent less likely to develop cataracts.
3. Protects the health of the skin
The human skin, like the eyes, is exposed directly to the external environment and the ultraviolet rays of the sun.Just like in food, studies show that zeaxanthin can protect our skin from the oxidation caused by free radicals. According to the American site Medical News Today, specializing in health and nutrition, zeaxanthin can help improve hydration and elasticity of the skin, bringing many benefits. Due to its antioxidant activity, zeaxanthin can potentially help prevent the oxidative damage that occurs over the years and leads to the degeneration of the nutrients that make up the skin.
Zeaxanthin also helps to protect lipids, the skin's natural fat from the effects of radiation and pollutants found in the air, leading to dryness and premature aging.
Foods rich in zeaxanthin
This phytochemical is present in a wide range of foods that researchers usually distribute in three groups:
1. Leafy green vegetables
According to the magazine Alternative Medicine Review, dark green leaves are a naturally rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin and the vegetables that best represent this group are kale, turnip and spinach. These vegetables have their nutritional values potentiated after they are cooked.
A glass of raw cabbage provides about 15 milligrams of zeaxanthin. The same amount of this vegetable can provide almost 24 milligrams of this amino acid after lightly cooked.
The same happens with turnip, spinach and other foods. See the zeaxanthin count for some foods in the table below.
Concentration of zeaxanthin in some foods
Values for a cup of food.
Food - Amount in milligrams
- Cooked cabbage: 23.7
- Cooked spinach: 20.4
- Cabbage: 14.6
- Turnip greens: 12.2
- Broccoli Cooked: 3,4
- Spinach raw: 3,7
- Canned peas: 2,2
- Canned corn: 3
- Raw lettuce: 1,3
- Cooked carrot: 1,1
- Cooked pod: 0,8
- 2 large eggs: 0.3
2. Other colored vegetables
Other green, yellow and orange vegetables are also rich in zeaxanthin. Broiled broccoli offers about 3.4 milligrams per cup, while boiled corn provides 3 milligrams. Green peas and Brussels sprouts are also foods rich in zeaxanthin and provide about 2.3 and 2 milligrams per cup, respectively.
The vibrant color of chilies and carrots are signs of the presence of zeaxanthin. A glass of chopped chili provides about 1.7 milligrams of zeaxanthin when raw. Once cooked, the availability of this phytochemical increases.
3. Fruit and egg yolks
Egg yolks and some fruits contain zeaxanthin, especially fruits with yellow and orange tint. Persimmons, for example, offer about 1 milligram per cup. Oranges and mandarins are other sources of zeaxanthin offering about half a milligram per cup of its juice. Egg yolk is the only animal food rich in zeaxanthin. Each yolk supplying about 0.25 milligrams of the carotenoid.
Supplements of zeaxanthin
Due to the possible benefits of zeaxanthin to human eye health, many supplement manufacturers have added this carotenoid to its various vitamin formulas.
There is currently no specific recommendation on the daily amount of zeaxanthin that a person should take, but experts suggest taking at least six milligrams per day to get the beneficial effects.
It is also not yet clear how much of zeaxanthin is needed daily for proper vision protection. And further research is needed to determine whether supplements have the same effect as eating zeaxanthin through dietary sources.
The source of zeaxanthin often used in the manufacture of supplements is red peppers.
When choosing a supplement, make sure that it is a high quality product, manufactured by a reputable company.
The most popular zeaxanthin supplements include:
- EyePromise Zeaxanthin (Zeavision);
- ICaps Eye Vitamin Lutein & Zeaxanthin Formula (Alcon);
- Macula Complete (Biosyntrx);
- MacularProtect Complete (ScienceBased Health);
- MaxiVision Ocular Formula (MedOp);
- OcuGuard Plus (TwinLab);
- PreserVision (Bausch + Lomb)
Is it safe to take zeaxanthin supplement?
The use of Zeaxanthin has been extensively tested in animals and humans at levels well above the recommended maximum daily dose of 10 milligrams. The substance is recognized by the American FDA, the department that controls drugs and foods, and is certified by them as safe.
Remember, however, that taking supplements does not replace a healthy diet. Eating a well balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to get the nutrients your eye and the rest of the body needs.
What are the possible side effects?
There are no known side effects or negative interactions of zeaxanthin with other drugs. Individuals who exceed the recommended maximum daily level for adults, which is ten milligrams, or who eat large amounts of carrots or yellow and citrus green fruits, may develop a harmless yellowing of the skin called carotenemia.
Although the onset of the disease is somewhat alarming and can be confused with jaundice, the coloration disappears as soon as the consumption of these foods is stopped.
How long should zeaxanthin be taken?
Building zeaxanthin levels in the eyes is a gradual process and supplementation should be a healthy lifelong practice.
In research done with volunteers, it took months of supplement intake to obtain measurable increase of the substance in the macular pigment of the eye. Interestingly, the level of pigmentation in this region continued to increase according to the continuation of the supplementation made over a year of research.