There exist two subgroups of carotenoids, the hydrocarbon carotenoids, and the xanthophylls. Meso-zeaxanthin (MZ) is a form of carotenoid belonging to the xanthophylls group that is found in the macula, lens, and retina.  It is formed in the body, specifically the retina from ingested lutein.  Together, with lutein and zeaxanthin, the three are referred to as the “macular carotenoids.” Carotenoid structure encompasses a linear conjugated polyene chain. Meso-Zeaxanthin is highly concentrated at the center of the macula; the periphery is occupied by lutein.  The three provide a potent antioxidant capacity that promotes eye health.

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Meso-Zeaxanthine confers protection of the macula and underlying eye structures from light induced oxidative damage of the eye cells.   The protective effect is due to the increase in the optical density of the macular pigment in the eye. Due to its ability to absorb visible light, MZ filters the harmful light rays (blue light filtering properties)  that can damage the underlying layer of photoreceptor cells.  It also provides protection against free radicals preserving the health of the eye tissues and cells and in particular the retinal epithelium and the choroid.

Apart from the risk of photo-oxidative damage, the retina itself produces free radicals that can negatively impact on eye health. Due to its exceptionally high metabolic rate, the retina produces numerous damaging oxidative byproducts that are harmful to the eye. The macular carotenoids scavenge for the free radicals thus protecting the eye from further oxidative stress.

With age, there is a decrease in the levels of the macular pigments which makes one prone to macular degeneration. This is mainly attributed to the inability to convert lutein to MZ  necessitating supplementation.  The main functions of MZ include the reduction of oxidative stress to enhance vision.  This is attributed to both its antioxidant activity and photoprotective effect.

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