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Zeaxanthin is a bioflavonoid (or flavonoid), which is a type of pigment found in almost all herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Bioflavonoids provide the body with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection, and are one of the main reasons fruits and vegetables are so healthy to eat. Zeaxanthin belongs to a group of bioflavonoids known as carotenoids, a group that is further subdivided into two groups: carotenes and xanthophylls. Zeaxanthin is one of the xanthophylls, which are found most abundantly in dark, leafy green vegetables, and are crucial to the good health of the eyes. The retina of the eye actually contains a lot of zeaxanthin, which is why it is so important to include this carotenoid in your diet.
Zeaxanthin helps protect the eye from ultra-violet damage, and prevents free-radical damage to the retina and the lens of the eye that is associated with diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.
The best sources of zeaxanthin are dark-green leafy vegetables, such as greens, kale, and spinach. Zeaxanthin is also found in yellow fruits and vegetables, and egg yolks. Zeaxanthin is a fat-soluble nutrient, which means that it is best absorbed when taken along with foods that contain fat, or in combination with fatty-acid supplements such as fish oil and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). People who have low-fat diets or diets lacking fruits and vegetables, or with physical conditions that prevent them from properly digesting fat, are at increased risk for carotenoid deficiency. Smoking is also thought to impair the body's absorption of carotenoids, so smokers should be sure to get enough fruits and vegetables. (NOTE: Smokers should not take any form of carotenoid supplements, as some studies have shown that these may increase the risk of lung cancer.)
Zeaxanthin is available in supplements of 1 to 10 milligrams. It is also found in many supplements that combine lutein and zeaxanthin, but these usually contain more lutein than zeaxanthin. There have been no toxic reactions associated with zeaxanthin consumption, although it is strongly recommended that smokers avoid all carotenoid supplements.
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