Lutein and zeaxanthin are members of the oxygenated carotenoids found particularly in egg yolks and dark-green leafy vegetables. A great deal of research has focused on their beneficial roles in eye health. The present article summarises the current literature related to the bioactivity of these carotenoids, emphasising their effects and possible mechanisms of action in relation to human eye health. Available evidence demonstrates that lutein and zeaxanthin are widely distributed in a number of body tissues and are uniquely concentrated in the retina and lens, indicating that each has a possible specific function in these two vital ocular tissues. Most of epidemiological studies and clinical trials support the notion that lutein and zeaxanthin have a potential role in the prevention and treatment of certain eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract and retinitis pigmentosa. The biological mechanisms for the protective effects of these carotenoids may include powerful blue-light filtering activities and antioxidant properties. Although most studies point towards significant health benefits from lutein and zeaxanthin, further large-scale randomised supplementation trials are needed to define their effects on ocular function in health and disease.
Copyright (c) 2009 Society of Chemical Industry.