What are lutein and zeaxanthin?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the most common carotenoids found in nature. Carotenoids are a class of organic compounds that are responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their characteristic color. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. These two carotenoids are also found in smaller amounts in other foods such as eggs, corn, and oranges.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are structurally similar molecules with each molecule consisting of 40 carbon atoms, 36 hydrogen atoms, and 1 oxygen atom. The only difference between these two molecules is the location of a double bond in the molecule. Lutein has a double bond located at the 11th and 12th carbon atoms while zeaxanthin has a double bond located at the 10th and 11th carbon atoms.
What are the health benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to have a number of potential health benefits. These two carotenoids are known to be powerful antioxidants that can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is a process that is involved in many chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to their antioxidant properties, lutein and zeaxanthin are also thought to play a role in vision health. These two carotenoids are concentrated in the macula, which is the part of the eye responsible for central vision. Studies have shown that people who consume high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older adults.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also being studied for their potential role in cognitive health. Some research suggests that these carotenoids may help improve memory and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
What foods contain lutein and zeaxanthin?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in a variety of foods. The best sources of these carotenoids are green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in smaller amounts in other foods such as eggs, corn, and oranges.
Can I take lutein and zeaxanthin supplements?
Yes, lutein and zeaxanthin supplements are available over-the-counter. These supplements typically come in the form of capsules or tablets. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements to make sure they are right for you.
The pharmacokinetic behavior of lutein and zeaxanthin is similar, as they are both fat-soluble and both accumulate in the macula and lens of the eye. Lutein is more abundant than zeaxanthin in human serum and tissues, probably due to higher dietary intake. After an oral dose, peak concentrations in serum are reached within 4–6 hours. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are then slowly eliminated with a half-life of 28 days. In contrast to other xanthophylls, no metabolites have been detected in serum or urine.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are transported around the body bound to lipoproteins. The highest concentrations are found in low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), with lower concentrations in high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). Lutein and zeaxanthin are also taken up by the liver and incorporated into very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs).
When taking supplements, it is best to take them with a meal that contains fat, as this will help increase absorption.
What are the side effects of lutein and zeaxanthin?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are generally considered safe when taken in recommended doses. Some people may experience minor side effects such as gastrointestinal upset or skin rash. These side effects are typically mild and resolve on their own.
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking lutein or zeaxanthin supplements, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking other medications. Some medications can interact with these supplements, so it is important to be sure that they are safe for you.