When considering which product is right for you, there are many synthetic ingredients in vitamins we need to watch out for.
Using natural (dietary) zeaxanthin (a nutrient found in orange peppers and leafy green vegetables) in eye vitamins helps to ensure healthy vision. Zeaxanthin is also found in the center of the macula and builds up macular pigment in the eye which protects your vision. However, some companies who make eye vitamins use something called “meso-zeaxanthin” or “zeaxanthin isomers”.
What Is Meso-Zeaxanthin?
Classified as a synthetic ingredient according to FDA guidelines, ingredient manufacturers create meso-zeaxanthin from lutein in a lab using high heat in a strong alkaline environment. This synthetic form of zeaxanthin is cheaper to produce, and there are no studies supporting the assertion that it has the same effect that dietary zeaxanthin has on vision.
Stuart Richer, OD, PhD, says there is much more research surrounding dietary zeaxanthin and lutein than there is about meso-zeaxanthin.
“There is a 20-year body of robust evidence pertaining to ocular benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin from foods and supplements and supporting the safety of administering these nutrients as dietary supplements, but a definite shortage of information on meso-zeaxanthin.”
Is Meso-Zeaxanthin Necessary?
There isn’t near enough scientific research to support the notion that meso-zeaxanthin should be taken over dietary zeaxanthin and lutein. In fact, the number of clinical trials regarding meso-zeaxanthin pales in comparison to those studying dietary zeaxanthin. “To my knowledge, there are no studies that have assessed the effect of meso-zeaxanthin supplementation on macular pigment in the absence of lutein and/or zeaxanthin supplementation,” says Diana Shechtman, OD.
A study published in 2017 actually showed that adding meso-zeaxanthin to an AREDS 2 supplement had no additional benefit. Also, the body can make meso-zeaxanthin on its own, converting lutein in the eye in the absence of dietary zeaxanthin. So as long as you’re supplementing with natural zeaxanthin and lutein, your body will produce any meso-zeaxanthin you may need.
You should always do your homework to ensure you’re taking something your body actually needs. Learn more about the benefits of natural zeaxanthin.