Lutein and Zeaxanthin are pigments found in fruits, vegetables, and other plants. They are a type of carotenoid, a class of compounds that are known for their antioxidant properties. They can be found in high concentrations in the retina of the eye and are thought to play a role in maintaining eye health.
There is a lot more to these two carotenoids than first meets the eye – pun intended. Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from them.
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Benefits of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
So let’s take a look at these ‘secrets’ mentioned earlier. Some research suggests that the benefits of Lutein and Zeaxanthin may include:
- Protecting the eyes from oxidative stress and damage
- They may help to protect the eyes from oxidative stress, which is caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. This can help to reduce the risk and impacts of age-related disease effecting the eyes, particularly macular degeneration, and cataracts. However, the research and findings in this area are still hotly debated. 
- Improving visual function
- Some research suggests that they may improve visual function, including visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and eye fatigue.
- Reducing the risk of age-related eye diseases
- Some studies have found that people who consume high levels of these carotenoid may have a lower risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Supporting skin health
- Research into the photoprotective properties of Kappaphycus alvarezii (formerly known as Eucheuma cottonii) commonly known as Sea Moss, has provided for potential cosmetic applications 
- Supporting cardiovascular health
- Researchers looking into cardiovascular health, focusing specifically on atherosclerosis prevention, have found that increasing plasma zeaxanthin levels may have protective effects. The study observed effects of Zeaxanthin on pulse wave velocity, elastic modulus, and common carotid artery stiffness. 
It is important to note that most of the research on the potential health benefits of Zeaxanthin and Lutein has been done in animals or in test tubes. More research is needed to confirm these potential benefits in humans.
If you are interested in increasing your plant based intake of these carotenoids, you can do so by eating foods that are high in this pigment, such as corn, certain seaweeds, and green leafy vegetables. You could also consider taking a dietary supplement which contains Lutein and Zeaxanthin. It is always best to speak with your trusted Doctor or Dietitian before starting any new regimen.
What are Lutein and Zeaxanthin Seaweed Sources?
- Sea Moss (Zeaxanthin)
If seaweed is not your thing, other foods high in Lutein and Zeaxanthin include:
- Non-Plant Based sources
- Egg yolks
It’s not just these foods that you can find this duo in. Did you know that specific microalgae are also widely used as a source?
Nannochloropsis oculata is a type of microalgae that is commonly used in the production of dietary supplements, cosmetics, and animal feed. It is a unicellular organism that belongs to the family of eustigmatophyceae, which are known for their high levels of pigments such as Zeaxanthin and Lutein. 
Nannochloropsis oculata is known for its high content of these, as well as other nutrients such as essential fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins. It is considered a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of these nutrients, as it can be grown using renewable resources such as sunlight and water.
Nannochloropsis oculata is commonly used as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules, tablets, or powders. It is also used as an ingredient in some cosmetics and skin care products.
One specific application studied was the potential for this microalgae to play a part in cosmetic skin whitening products. 
What is Lutein and Zeaxanthin good for?
Based on the benefits outlined earlier, the research on these two carotenoids they have been identified as supporting eye and cardiovascular health. Other research conducted has suggested that there may be benefits in cognitive function and brain health with a window to potentially addressing related diseases. 
The involvement of Researchers in this study, and their disclosed potential conflict of interests with an organisation in the nutrition space might cause some to quirk a brow, so, it may be worth considering this when you are looking at the study based on what your own Spidey-senses tell you.
Isolating carotenoids and considering their functions in the human body relative to time and dose factors along with preexisting health conditions and genetic predispositions is a very broad topic to consider. Studies in the area of cancer research connected to these two are thin compared to others. Zeaxanthin and Lutein have been considered with regard to their scope of involvement as antioxidants against cancers of various types, however, more research is required. [6, 7]
What are the Side Effects of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Supplements?
Zeaxanthin and Lutein are generally considered safe and well-tolerated and have been consumed by humans for centuries as a part of a wholefood diet. It is only in more recent times that we have isolated elements of fruits, vegetables, and other sources of nutrition to make supplements.
In supplement form, they are typically recommended by Doctors and Dietitians as doses of 10-20 mg per day. Professional advice must be sought first.
Keep in mind that it is possible to have an allergic reaction to these carotenoids in supplement form. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include rash, itching, and difficulty breathing.
If you experience any of these symptoms after taking these supplements most advice would include stopping taking the supplements and seeking medical attention.
There have been no reported serious side effects of lutein and zeaxanthin supplements.
However, it is always important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen. They can help determine the right dosage and advise on any potential interactions with other medications or supplements you may be taking.
There are no specific groups of people who should not take these in supplement form. However, as with any supplement, it is important to talk to a qualified professional before making any changes, especially if you have a health condition or are taking medications.
Zeaxanthin and Lutein may interact with certain medications and supplements, so it is important to make sure you are very clear in discussions with healthcare providers about any other substances you are taking at the time.
For all of the benefits they bring, Zeaxanthin and Lutein supplements are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
At this stage there is not enough research to determine whether these supplements are safe for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
When should I take Lutein and Zeaxanthin?
In terms of their effectiveness, they are both absorbed better when they are taken with a meal that contains fat. This is because these compounds are fat-soluble, which means they are absorbed more efficiently when they are consumed with fat. Therefore, taking them as supplements with a meal that contains some fat may help to improve their absorption and potential health benefits.
With regard to the timing of taking Lutein and Zeaxanthin supplementation, this may not be as important as the overall amount that is consumed. Consuming these compounds on a regular basis, rather than just at a specific time of day, may be more important for maintaining their potential health benefits.
Who should not take Lutein?
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend lutein supplements for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Until more is known about the potential effects of lutein on fetal development and lactation, it is generally recommended to avoid taking lutein supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Individuals who are allergic to any of the ingredients in lutein supplements should not take them. Lutein supplements may also interact with certain medications, so it is important to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking before starting a lutein supplement.
If you are sourcing these from seaweeds, it is important to consider any potential seafood or shellfish allergies as some seaweeds may trigger these due to traces of the aggravating components found on or in them.
What is the difference between Lutein and Zeaxanthin?
One main difference between these two is their chemical structure. Lutein is a xanthophyll, which means it has a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to one of the rings in its chemical structure. It is an isomer of Zeaxanthin. While Zeaxanthin, on the other hand, is a xanthophyll ester, which means it has a carboxyl group (-COOH) attached to one of the rings in its chemical structure.
Another difference between them although they are both thought to play a role in protecting the eyes from oxidative stress and damage, and and may also improve visual function, is in their mechanisms of action. Each compound is understood to have specific roles or mechanisms of action that are distinct from the other.
For example, lutein has been shown to absorb blue light, which may help to protect the eyes from the harmful effects of high-energy visible light. While Zeaxanthin, on the other hand, may help to filter out harmful ultraviolet (UV) light, which can damage the retina and increase the risk of eye diseases.
What is the best source of Zeaxanthin?
Some people will gravitate towards vision supplements with Lutein and Zeaxanthin. I prefer to look to functional food sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin instead.
Seaweeds can contain reliable and natural sources of these carotenoids and other minerals, vitamins, and valuable health supporting elements. Take a look at some of the functional foods we discuss to see which source you consider to be the best for you.
What is a Safe Lutein and Zeaxanthin Dosage?
There is no established recommended daily allowance (RDA) for these. The optimal dosage of these compounds may vary depending on factors such as age, gender, and individual health needs.
In general, most studies on the potential health benefits of Zeaxanthin and Lutein have used dosages ranging from 2 to 10 milligrams (mg) per day. Some studies have used higher dosages, up to 20 mg per day, but these higher dosages have not been studied as extensively.
It is important to note that as supplements they are not currently regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their safety and effectiveness have not been fully established. Therefore, it is always best to seek professional advice first. A trusted Doctor or Dietitian can help to determine the appropriate dosage and frequency of use for you, as well as whether these supplements are appropriate for your individual needs.
Zeaxanthin and Lutein may play a key part in supporting optimal health particularly when sourced as a part of a functional food strategy from fruits, vegetables, and sustainably ocean harvested Sea Moss.
As with any other changes you may be considering to introduce, it is advisable to seek tailored professional advice to evaluate your specific needs first.
- “The role of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, in protecting against age-related macular degeneration: A review based on controversial evidence” – M. Mozaffarieh, S. Sacu, A. Wedrich, 11 December 2003 [PubMed] [Archive]
- “Seaweed-Based Molecules and Their Potential Biological Activities: An Eco-Sustainable Cosmetics” – H. S. Kalasariya, V. K. Yadav, K. K. Yadav, V. Tirth, A. Algahtani, S. Islam, N. Gupta, B. H. Jeon, 1 September 2021 [PubMed] [Archive]
- “Carotenoids: potential allies of cardiovascular health?” – M. A. Gammone, G. Riccioni, N. D’Orazio, 6 February 2016 [PubMed] [Archive]
- “Nannochloropsis oculata (Droop) D.J.Hibberd, 1981” – M. D. Guiry, 8 December 2008 [WoRMS] [Archive]
- “Effects of a Lutein and Zeaxanthin Intervention on Cognitive Function: A Randomized, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Younger Healthy Adults” – L. M. Renzi-Hammond, E. R. Bovier, L. M. Fletcher,L. S. Miller, C. M. Mewborn, C. A. Lindbergh, J. H. Baxter, B. R. Hammond Jr., 14 November 2017 [PubMed] [Archive]
- “Carotenoids: biochemistry, pharmacology and treatment” – A. Milani, M. Basirnejad, S. Shahbazi, A. Bolhassani, 29 October 2016 [PubMed] [Archive]
- “Dietary Lutein Plus Zeaxanthin Intake and DICER1 rs3742330 A > G Polymorphism Relative to Colorectal Cancer Risk” – J. Kim, J. Lee, J. H. Oh, H. J. Chang, D. K. Sohn, O. Kwon, A. Shin, J. Kim, 4 March 2019 [PubMed] [Archive]