The macular xanthophylls

Surv Ophthalmol. 2005 Mar-Apr;50(2):183-93. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2004.12.009.


The macular pigments are predominantly composed of three carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are concentrated and distributed in a selective manner. The properties of these pigments are further explored along with their methods of uptake, stabilization, and storage. The dual nature of these pigments as filters and antioxidants are elaborated upon in relation to their protective effects upon the macula, specifically in age-related macular degeneration. Evidence suggests that increased levels of macular pigment are correlated with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration. Many have sought to exploit this therapeutic relation. Studies reveal that oral supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin can increase the levels of macular pigments in the retina and plasma. The effects of such supplementation on actual ocular function have yet to be fully addressed. New and standardized methods of assessing macular pigment density are discussed and future areas of research to further our understanding of macular xanthophylls as they pertain to age-related macular degeneration are highlighted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lutein / analysis
  • Lutein / physiology
  • Macula Lutea / chemistry
  • Macula Lutea / metabolism*
  • Retinal Pigments / analysis
  • Retinal Pigments / physiology*
  • Xanthophylls / analysis
  • Xanthophylls / physiology*
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene / analogs & derivatives*
  • beta Carotene / analysis
  • beta Carotene / physiology


  • Retinal Pigments
  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • beta Carotene
  • meso-zeaxanthin
  • Lutein