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Eye (Lond). 2013 Aug;27(8):899-905. doi: 10.1038/eye.2013.98. Epub 2013 May 24.

What is meso-zeaxanthin, and where does it come from?

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Macular Pigment Research Group, Vision Research Centre, Carriganore House, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland.


The carotenoids lutein (L), zeaxanthin (Z), and meso-zeaxanthin (MZ) accumulate in the central retina, where they are collectively known as macular pigment (MP). Each of these three compounds exhibit a regional dominance, with MZ, Z, and L being the dominant carotenoids at the epicentre, mid-periphery, and periphery of the macula, respectively. There is a growing and evidence-based consensus that MP is important for optimal visual performance, because of its blue light-filtering properties and consequential attenuation of chromatic aberration, veiling luminance, and blue haze. It has also been hypothesised that MP may protect against age-related macular degeneration because of the same optical properties and also because of the antioxidant capacity of the three macular carotenoids. Challenges inherent in the separation and quantification of MZ have resulted in a paucity of data on the content of this carotenoid in foodstuffs, and have rendered the study of tissue concentrations of this compound problematic. As a consequence, the few studies that have investigated MZ have, perhaps, been disproportionately influential in the ongoing debate about the origins of this macular carotenoid. Certainly, the narrative that retinal MZ is derived wholly and solely from retinal L needs to be revisited.

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