In early 2020, researchers revealed the results of a groundbreaking nutritional study that’s expected to have a major impact on the future of vision health. They’ve confirmed the power of certain nutrients in the prevention and treatment of the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in people over 50– macular degeneration.
Lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin are protective antioxidants that make up the macular pigment at the back of the retina. This yellow pigment allows us to enjoy clear central vision.
Previous studies showed people missing these three nutrients are far more likely to develop macular degeneration in later life. Symptoms include a partial loss of vision or seeing spots, the inability to see in dim light, and an abnormality where straight lines appear wavy instead of straight.
Generous amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin are found in kale, spinach, egg yolks, corn and bell peppers, and these two nutrients are commonly featured in vision supplements. Not so with meso-zeaxanthin. You can call it a rare nutrient. It’s only been detected in some fish, particularly the skins. But under optimal conditions the body makes as much meso-zeaxanthin as it needs from lutein.
Two-Year Clinical Trial Results in Surprise
For over a decade, many natural health experts have recommended lutein and zeaxanthin supplements for vision health. But do they really work? And what about supplements of meso-zeaxanthin?
Researchers in the UK decided to take a closer look.
For the trial, they assigned 121 patients with early stage macular degeneration to two groups. 61 took a daily supplement containing lutein, zeaxanthin and other nutrients that help visual function. These were vitamins C and E, and minerals zinc and copper. The other 60 took the same supplement, but with the addition of meso-zeaxanthin.
Nearly Half Experienced Better Eyesight
After two years, instead of the expected deterioration, most experienced enhanced vision, with significant improvement in 24 of the 32 eye tests they underwent. Nearly half (40 percent) of participants displayed clinically meaningful improvement. Research noted better eyesight especially in those taking the supplement that included meso-zeaxanthin.
Lead author, Professor John Nolan, said, “These are hugely exciting findings. It’s been both humbling and rewarding to work with [volunteers] and to see the difference in their quality of life as the decline in their vision is arrested and they begin to notice a distinct improvement.”
Doctor Treats Himself with Amazing Results
While aware of Professor Nolan’s work, UK doctor, author and science journalist Michael Mosley admits to being skeptical when it comes to nutritional supplements. But having worn glasses for most of his life, the 60-year-old doctor put his doubts aside to test a formula containing lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin extracted from marigolds.
Before his did so, he visited Professor John Barbur of City University, London to have his eyes thoroughly examined. The tests revealed a poor ability to detect blue and yellow colors. His night vision and perception of details were also poor when compared to much younger people.
Night Vision and Color Perception Improve
After 90 days the results surprised both Dr. Mosley and the professor. Blue and yellow color perception had returned to normal, night vision had improved, and macular pigmentation had thickened.
This occurred even though Dr. Mosley eats a diet containing a plentiful supply of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Dr. Mosley also wanted to know whether carotenoids obtained from food would likewise give good results. To test this, ten volunteers drank a green smoothie containing high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin for five weeks.
The results were surprising.
Supplements Tested Superior to Food
Although lutein levels in the blood nearly doubled, zeaxanthin levels stayed the same There was no change in macular pigmentation and eyesight did not improve.
Dr. Mosley had to admit the evidence supports taking capsules containing all three components. He said, “this might be a rare occasion where…I might end up on the side of supplements…”