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    Lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin are three xanthophyll carotenoid pigments that selectively concentrate in the center of the retina. Humans cannot synthesize lutein and zeaxanthin, so these compounds must be obtained from the diet or supplements, with meso-zeaxanthin being converted from lutein in the macula. Xanthophylls are major components of macular pigments that protect the retina through the provision of oxidant defense and filtering of blue light. The accumulation of these three xanthophylls in the central macula can be quantified with non-invasive methods, such as macular pigment optical density (MPOD). MPOD serves as a useful tool for assessing risk for, and progression of, age-related macular degeneration, the third leading cause of blindness worldwide. Dietary surveys suggest that the dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are decreasing. In addition to low dietary intake, pregnancy and lactation may compromise the lutein and zeaxanthin status of both the mother and infant. Lutein is found in modest amounts in some orange- and yellow-colored vegetables, yellow corn products, and in egg yolks, but rich sources of zeaxanthin are not commonly consumed. Goji berries contain the highest known levels of zeaxanthin of any food, and regular intake of these bright red berries may help protect against the development of age-related macular degeneration through an increase in MPOD. The purpose of this review is to summarize the protective function of macular xanthophylls in the eye, speculate on the compounds' role in maternal and infant health, suggest the establishment of recommended dietary values for lutein and zeaxanthin, and introduce goji berries as a rich food source of zeaxanthin. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Life Sciences Institute. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


    Xiang Li, Roberta R Holt, Carl L Keen, Lawrence S Morse, Angela M Zivkovic, Glenn Yiu, Robert M Hackman. Potential roles of dietary zeaxanthin and lutein in macular health and function. Nutrition reviews. 2023 May 10;81(6):670-683

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    PMID: 36094616

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