What is Meso-zeaxanthin?

What is Meso-Zeaxanthin? — How Can You Make Sure You’re Getting Enough?

September 23, 2020

Written by Sara Uffelman

Fact checked by The Brain Blog Team


What is Meso-Zeaxanthin?

Meso-Zeaxanthin (MZ) and Zeaxanthin (Z) are what’s known as antioxidant carotenoids. Carotenoids are plant-based pigments and some of nature's best antioxidants; they are well-known for their chemical and biological properties, and are especially effective for disease prevention. Zeaxanthin is a plant-based micronutrient [pigment] that can be found in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli.  Meso-Zeaxanthin is also a micronutrient, found in the skins of fish like trout as well as in Marigold flowers.  Our body also creates Meso-Zeaxanthin on its own by converting another antioxidant carotenoid called  Lutein (L), also found in leafy green vegetables.  Of these three carotenoids — MZ, Z, and L — Meso-Zeaxanthin is known as the most potent antioxidant, existing at the center of the eye where vision is sharpest. 

When the three carotenoids — MZ, Z, and L — are combined they become much more powerful than they are on their own individually. They help neutralize dangerous free radicals, fight inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress in the eyes and brain. All three carotenoids protect the eyes and brain, and are proven to  support cognitive function, memory, sight, and mood.  They have also been increasingly linked to the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurodegenerative brain diseases. Studies show that individuals with high concentrations of carotenoids and omega-3s in their brain demonstrate much better cognitive functions, and that patients with Alzheimer's disease are actually deficient in these nutrients.


Meso-Zeaxanthin in the Macula — Where Else is Meso-Zeaxanthin Located?

The three carotenoids — Meso-Zeaxanthin, Zeaxanthin and Lutein — are collectively referred to as macular pigment or macular carotenoids because they accumulate in the macula of the eye; the macula is a term to describe the center of the eye's retina, the region of the eye that subserves central, detailed, and color vision. Because of this, it's no secret that the three carotenoids contribute to the overall health of the eye. In fact, they are most well known for their help in the prevention and treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).  It's only in recent years that the three carotenoids are being linked to other health benefits beyond the eye — such as reducing the the risks of coronary heart disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome.  Plus, while initially the three carotenoids were thought to only exist in the macula, they have now been found to exist in the brain as well!  New research further demonstrates the positive impact they have on brain health, by contributing to better cognition, better memory, and ultimately the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Much of this is due to the carotenoids ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB, made up of semipermeable barriers and cellular processes, only allows necessary substances to reach the brain. Because the three carotenoids actually exist in the brain, they are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to take direct effect, something many brain-targeted micronutrients cannot do. 

PRO TIP:  When taking any form of supplement for brain health, make sure it is able to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier! 

What’s unique about the three carotenoids is, because they appear in the macula of the eye, they can be easily quantified, in a non-invasive way, by measuring what scientists call “macular pigment optical density” or MPOD. This makes it easier for medical professionals to determine if supplements are effective and optimal, and makes research into the value of carotenoid supplementation more accepted and trusted.

Getting Enough Meso-Zeaxanthin in Your Diet

Science has proven it is virtually improssible to consume enough Meso-Zeaxanthin, Zeaxanthin, and Lutein through diet alone. Our eyes and brain require a specific amount of the three carotenoids in order to function optimally.  This specific amount isn't possible through diet alone, particularly when eating a standard American diet. Because of this, many scientists now say that supplementation is necessary to receive optimal levels of carotenoids.  One supplement on the market containing MZ, Z, and L is known as Memory Health®.  

In a recent interview on Sky News, carotenoid researcher Professor Riona Mulcahy said, "The difficulty is that to get the amount of these nutrients that you need per day to achieve these [optimal] results, isn't possible from your normal every day diet. For example you would need to eat 200,000 trout to get the amount of one of the carotenoids found in Memory Health® called Meso-Zeaxanthin. We know a healthy diet helps, but the unique Memory Health® formulation gives you the right amount to give the results that you need... So it's not just diet alone, it's really getting enough of it! This is especially difficult today as a lot of our food is now mass produced, fish is farmed, and the nutritional value of our food is going down. So even with a healthy diet, we don't receive enough of these nutrients. What Memory Health® [supplement] does is deliver specific key nutrients directly to the brain to prevent the brain from degenerating.”

    The Origins of Meso-Zeaxanthin

    More than 700 carotenoids have been isolated and identified in scientific laboratories over the years, with 40 of them found in fruits and vegetables. However, only a very slim number (14) of these dietary carotenoids can be “absorbed, modified, and/or used by the human body,” according to recent research. Narrowing even further, only three have been found to exist in the eyes and brain: Meso-Zeaxanthin, Zeaxanthin and Lutein.

    Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in foods that are common in the American diet, like spinach, kale, corn and egg products. Unfortunately, there is very little research about the best sources for Meso-Zeaxanthin. Research from Maoka in 1986 confirmed the nutrient’s presence in 21 species of fish, sea turtles and shrimp. A later study by Rasmussen conflicts with this research.  What we do know is this...


    Meso-Zeaxanthin is Created in 3 Ways

    1.  In the body, converted from Lutein
      • Meso-Zeaxanthin is obtained by an enzyme conversion of Lutein to Meso-Zeaxanthin in the body.
      • Most patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) have 30% less Meso-Zeaxanthin in their macula and show an inability to convert Lutein into Meso-Zeaxanthin.
    2.  In some fish, primarily in the skin  
      • A peer reviewed study published August of 2014 in Journal of Food Processing & Technology has verified the presence of Meso-Zeaxanthin (MZ) in salmon skin, sardine skin, trout skin and trout flesh. This study confirmed the presence of MZ in nature, and in the human food chain.
    3.  In supplements that are created using marigold extract 
      • Marigold flower petals can provide a natural extract rich in the carotenoids Lutein, Meso-Zeaxanthin and Zeaxanthin. Some supplements are able to achieve this using a patented extraction process with the Aztec Marigold flower. 

    In the past there has been some question of possible toxicity, but these toxicity concerns have all been debunked. Current studies of supplementary Mezo-Zeaxanthin demonstrate that renal and liver function, lipid profiles and inflammation markers are unaffected after supplementation. In some countries, like Mexico, Marigolds are even fed to hens to create a richer yellow egg yolk, so Meso-Zeaxanthin is very common in the diets of people in those countries. 

    Meso-Zeaxanthin as a Critical Brain Micronutrient 

    There is significant research that supports supplementation with Meso-Zeaxanthin, along with Zeaxanthin and Lutein, for reducing brain oxidation and inflammation, as well as minimizing cellular damage and brain disease in aging populations. These carotenoids also promote the rebuilding of healthy cell membranes, which are critical for brain connections that support healthy memory, cognition, and overall emotional well-being (mental health).

    The supplement Memory Health® uses an all-natural, patented formula of Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin, combined with Omega-3s (DHA and EPA) and Natural Vitamin E. It is also the only brain supplement currently on the market to receive a patent for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.

    A Carotenoid Supplement for Eye and Brain Health

    Memory Health. Clinically Proven as published in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease

    In addition to 10 mg of Meso-Zeaxanthin,  Memory Health® also contains the carotenoids Zeaxanthin and Lutein, the Omega-3s DHA and EPA, and Natural Vitamin E.  It is clinically proven to support cognitive function, memory, and long-term brain health. Memory Health® is patented for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative disease, specifically Alzheimer's and dementia. It has been clinically proven to improve cognitive functions in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment, and its benefits include improvement in sight, cognition, memory, focus, and mood.

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