Observational evidence is accumulating that the onset of age-related maculopathy, the leading cause of legal blindness in the Western World, could be delayed, or even averted, with antioxidant supplements. Lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) are two hydroxy-carotenoids with antioxidant activity which accumulate at the macula, where they are collectively known as macular pigment (MP). It has been shown that MP is entirely of dietary origin, and that L and Z levels in serum, diet, and retina correlate. However, the nature of the relationships between L and Z in foodstuffs, blood, and macula is confounded by many variables including processes which influence digestion, absorption, and transport of the compounds in question, and accumulation and stabilization of the carotenoids in the tissues. If macular pigment is protective for age-related maculopathy, a clear understanding of the mechanisms whereby L and Z arrive at the target tissue (retina) from their source (foodstuff) is essential. In this paper, we review the literature germane to this growing area of interest.
- Age-related maculopathy