Life Extension Magazine®

Brown eye free of cataracts and macular degeneration supported through berry extract

New Studies Validate Powerful Protection Against Age-Related Vision Loss

Millions of Americans lose their eyesight due to cataracts and macular degeneration. New research published in 2014 validates that specifi c xanthophylls powerfully inhibit the pathways of vision loss, while a berry extract helps protects against night blindness.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in May 2022. Written by: Michael Downey, Health & Wellness Author.

New Studies Validate Powerful Protection Against Age-Related Vision Loss  

If you’re able to read this, you should consider yourself lucky. Millions of older Americans are suffering from age-related vision loss and struggle with everyday activities like reading or driving.

It is estimated that a startling 20.5 million Americans have cataracts, while 1.8 million suffer age-related macular degeneration.1,2 These numbers are expected to double in the next few decades.3,4

Recent research has revealed that these ocular diseases share common underlying causes, including oxidative stress, inflammation, and premature apoptosis (cell death).5

Fortunately, a class of nutrients has been found to target all these underlying causes of vision loss.

Xanthophylls —including lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin—were long ago shown to provide powerful protection against devastating age-related vision loss.5-7

What will impress long-term Life Extension® members are new studies published in 2014 showing that these xanthophylls confer meaningful protection against the most common forms of degenerative eye disease.

Xanthophylls Help Prevent Macular Degeneration

Xanthophylls Help Prevent Macular Degeneration  

Xanthophylls, the subclass of carotenoids responsible for giving the macula its yellow color, have been found to provide powerful protection against age-related macular degeneration.8

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in aging adults.9-11 It results from progressive loss of light-sensing nerve cells in the macula, or central part of the retina. This is the area where these cells are most densely packed, which is why the macula provides us with the greatest level of visual acuity (the ability to distinguish fine details).12-14 As macular degeneration progresses, central vision is lost, gradually diminishing one’s ability to engage in the many daily activities that require sharp vision.15

Research suggests that zeaxanthin and other xanthophylls may help prevent macular degeneration by increasing the structural density of the eye’s macular pigment.

Swiss scientists found that supplementing with just 10 to 20 daily mg of either lutein, zeaxanthin, or a combination of the two could increase the average plasma concentration of these xanthophylls by up to 27-fold. The researchers found that lutein wound up primarily in the most central region of the retina, while zeaxanthin was deposited over a wider area, suggesting that both nutrients are needed for maximum retinal health.16

Indeed, numerous studies have shown that higher dietary intakes of this powerful duo correspond with lower rates of macular degeneration and cataracts.17,18 In one study, epidemiologists found a 43% decrease in macular degeneration risk among people with the highest dietary carotenoid intakes—particularly zeaxanthin and lutein—compared with those with the lowest intakes.19

A remarkable double-blind, placebo-controlled study from 2014 demonstrated significant vision improvement with daily oral supplementation of 10 mg of lutein plus 2 mg of zeaxanthin—including a significant increase in macular pigment optical density.20

Also in 2014, a study in the journal Retina demonstrated the importance of supplementing with meso-zeaxanthin in addition to lutein and zeaxanthin. The researchers found that groups taking meso-zeaxanthin along with lutein and zeaxanthin significantly increased the optical density of macular pigment when compared to groups taking lutein and zeaxanthin without meso-zeaxanthin.21

Although there is no daily minimum for these xanthophylls, research suggests that a total daily intake of 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin is associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.22

What You Need To Know
Xanthophylls Offer Potent Eye Protection

Xanthophylls Offer Potent Eye Protection

  • An estimated 20.5 million Americans have cataracts, and another 1.8 million suffer age-related macular degeneration. Both numbers are expected to double in the next few decades.
  • New 2014 studies validate what Life Extension members have long known: Xanthophylls, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin, have once again been shown to provide powerful protection against devastating age-related vision loss, including macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • A novel flavonoid called cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G) has been shown to combat age-related night blindness, further supporting xanthophyll activity.

Improvements For Macular Degeneration Sufferers

In addition to preventing the onset of macular degeneration, xanthophylls have been found to improve vision in those who are already suffering from this vision-robbing disease.

Italian ophthalmologists randomized 27 patients with early age-related macular degeneration and discovered that the patients taking a dietary supplement that included lutein and zeaxanthin showed highly significant increases in electrical activity in the central areas of their retinas—where maximum visual acuity is generated—while the control patients showed no significant changes.23

In another rigorous trial, 90 patients with macular degeneration received either 10 mg of lutein daily, 10 mg of lutein along with a vitamin-mineral mix, or a placebo. After 12 months of treatment, visual acuity increased for both the lutein-only and the lutein-plus-vitamin-mineral groups. The lutein-only patients also reported a subjective improvement in their vision on a standard scale, while placebo recipients had no significant change in any of the measured outcomes.24

Ensuring Adequate Xanthophyll Intake
Three Nutrients Critical to Macular Structure

Life Extension members were long ago educated about the critical importance of supplementing with lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.

A large number of our members supplement with these xanthophylls to protect their vision, yet omit nutrients like vitamin K and gamma tocopherol that protect other areas of the body.

To ensure members are getting all these fat-soluble nutrients, Life Extension members can now obtain a combination of lutein, zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin, vitamins K1 and K2, gamma tocopherol, and other nutrients all in one upgraded formula.

Xanthophylls: Nature’s Natural Eye Protection

The carotenoids known as xanthophylls provide broad support for eye cells against age-related insults such as oxidative stress and inflammation.

Compared to most other organs, the eye is particularly susceptible to oxidative damage due to its exposure to light and its high metabolism.40

Each of the xanthophylls has been shown to target these shared pathologic pathways, resulting in potent protection against common, age-related causes of vision loss.

Lutein And Zeaxanthin

Of the 20 to 30 carotenoids found in human blood and tissues, the two most prominent found in your lens and retina are lutein and zeaxanthin.22 Both of these xanthophylls, referred to as the macular pigment, are concentrated in the macula, the specialized central area of the retina that is responsible for detailed vision due to its high concentration of light-detecting cone cells. Lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to limit damage to the retina by absorbing incoming, high-energy blue light and by quenching reactive oxygen species.22,25


In addition to lutein and zeaxanthin, meso-zeaxanthin offers much-needed, broad-spectrum, structural support for the aging macula. While lutein and zeaxanthin are found in egg yolks and colorful fruits and vegetables,41 meso-zeaxanthin is only found in a few food sources. This xanthophyll may be converted in the retina from ingested lutein.42 With age, it has been theorized that the ability to convert lutein into meso-zeaxanthin may decline.43 If taken as a supplement, meso-zeaxanthin is absorbed into the bloodstream and raises macular pigment density.42

Prevention And Improvement Of Cataracts

Studies have confirmed similar effects in cataracts, another main cause of adult blindness.25,26 A cataract is a clouding of the lens, which causes light to bend and scatter in ways that prevent the formation of a sharp image on the retina.27-29

Studies have found that higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with reduced risk of cataracts. For example, the Nurses’ Health Study examined the impact of 12 years of carotenoid consumption on cataract formation in more than 77,000 female nurses over the age of 45. Women with the highest intake of zeaxanthin and lutein had a 22% lower risk of cataract extraction (cataracts severe enough to require surgical removal).30

A randomized, placebo-controlled study examined the effects of lutein and vitamin E on visual function in 17 adults who had already been clinically diagnosed with age-related cataracts. The patients supplemented with 15 mg of lutein, 100 mg of vitamin E, or a placebo three times weekly for up to two years. Those in the lutein arm of the study demonstrated improvements in visual performance, including visual acuity and glare sensitivity. By contrast, visual acuity was merely maintained in the vitamin E group and worsened in the placebo group.31

In a later study, Australian researchers conducted a five-year investigation of 2,322 people 40 years old and older. They found an astonishing 40% lower energy-adjusted rate of cataracts occurring at the center of the lens for every 1 mg increase in subjects’ daily intake of lutein and zeaxanthin.32

Night Blindness

Night blindness—impairment of our ability to see in the dark—occurs with age, even in the absence of ocular disease. It is caused because rhodopsin, a compound in the eyes that absorbs light in the retina, regenerates more slowly as we age.33

Fortunately, a novel flavonoid called cyanidin-3-glucoside (C3G) can combat night blindness by stimulating the regeneration of rhodopsin.34-36 Although it does not belong to the xanthophyll group of compounds, it is important to aging people who suffer night vision loss.

C3G is a purple pigment in the anthocyanin family of flavonoids that is found in high concentrations in dark fruits such as blackberries and black currants. C3G has been shown to protect retinal cells against the harmful oxygen free radicals that are triggered by light.37,38 C3G and other cyanidin components of berries have also been shown to exert neuroprotective effects on retinal cells.39


Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts—both associated with aging—are primary causes of the loss of vision that afflict millions of Americans.

These distinctly different diseases all share mechanistic pathways, including oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptotic (cell death) factors. These common pathways are blocked by novel carotenoids known as macular xanthophylls, which specifically accumulate in the eye and structurally support the aging macula and retina.

Xanthophylls —including lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin—powerfully inhibit vision-robbing diseases. Supporting this activity, the anthocyanin C3G can protect retinal cells by stimulating rhodopsin regeneration and combating night blindness.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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