Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Their Roles in Age-Related Macular Degeneration-Neurodegenerative Disease

Nutrients. 2022 Feb 16;14(4):827. doi: 10.3390/nu14040827.


Lutein and zeaxanthin belong to the xanthophyll family of carotenoids, which are pigments produced by plants. Structurally, they are very similar, differing only slightly in the arrangement of atoms. Key sources of these carotenoids include kale, savoy cabbage, spinach, broccoli, peas, parsley, corn, and egg yolks. The recommended daily intake of lutein is approximately 10.0 mg and that of zeaxanthin is 2 mg. Lutein intake in adults varies, with average intakes being 1-2 mg/day. Due to the lack of synthesis of consumption of these compounds in humans, these substances are extremely important for the proper functioning of certain organs of the body (eye, skin, heart, intestines). Eating a lot of dark leafy vegetables and some fruits can help to prevent our bodies from developing diseases. The protective effects of carotenoids are mainly related to their defense against oxidative stress and their ability to scavenge free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only dietary carotenoids that accumulate in the retina, specifically the macula, and are called macular pigments. These carotenoids are concentrated by the action of specific binding proteins such as StARD3, which binds lutein, and GSTP1, which binds zeaxanthin and its dietary metabolite, mesozeaxanthin. It has been shown that supportive therapy with lutein and zeaxanthin can have a beneficial effect in delaying the progression of eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. This article presents the current state of knowledge on the role of lutein and zeaxanthin, especially from human studies targeting their metabolism and bioavailability, with recommendations to consume xanthophyll-rich foods.

Keywords: age-related macular degeneration; carotenoid deficiency; lutein; oxidative stress; xanthophylls; zeaxanthin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Lutein / metabolism
  • Macular Degeneration* / metabolism
  • Macular Degeneration* / prevention & control
  • Macular Pigment*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases*
  • Zeaxanthins / metabolism


  • Macular Pigment
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Lutein