Lutein and zeaxanthin are a class of carotenoids that help protect vision and prevent cellular damage. These are one of the two subcategories of carotenoids, the other being carotenes. While carotenes are orange pigments, lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow pigments. This class of molecules are termed xanthophylls.
Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are some of the leading causes of visual impairment and blindness. Lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids are antioxidants located in the macula (retina) part of the eye (Landrum et al., 2001). Their deficiency can lead to visual impairment.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are not produced in the body and need to be obtained from food. These carotenoids help filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light. This helps protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes. Intake of this class of compounds helps prevent cataract and AMD (Krinsky et al., 2003).
Green leafy vegetables are the richest sources of these carotenoids. These have 15-47% of lutein, but a shallow content (0.3%) of zeaxanthin. Fruits and vegetables of various colours should be consumed to increase carotenoid dietary intake (Sommerburg et al., 1998). Corn and corn products were also rich in dietary zeaxanthin (Perry et al., 2009).
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