What is Macular Pigment Optical Density Testing?

Macular pigment optical density (MPOD) testing is a non-invasive way to know the lutein and zeaxanthin levels in your eyes.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are important because they block the wavelengths of light from sunlight and digital devices called "blue light," the shorter, more energetic wavelengths of visible light between 400 and 500 nm.1 Studies suggest that too much blue light may cause damage in the eye.2

Why Get Your MPOD Tested?

  • Your MPOD number will give your doctor information about your risk for developing eye health problems and what you need to do to increase your number.
  • Science shows that high MPOD levels in the eye are related to high lutein and zeaxanthin levels in the brain and to better mental performance.3,4
  • MPOD helps with how fast our eyes process information and see details, such as ability to see contrast between two objects.5
  • Higher MPOD can help our eyes recover from blinding light, such as passing a car with bright headlights.6

What to Expect During the MPOD Test?

  • The test will take approximately 2 to 4 minutes total.
  • You choose whether to test your left or right eye. Whichever eye you choose should not affect your results, unless you have a known vision problem (like a cataract) with one eye.
  • You will complete a series of “practice scans” prior to actual testing.
  • The machine operator will let you know when your practice session is over and when the actual test is about to begin.
  • Feel free to blink as needed during the test.
  • Results between 0.5 and 1.0 is an approximate range for the adequate level of macular pigment density to block at least some level of blue light. Based on this chart, you can see that at a MPOD of 0.5, for example, about 18% of blue light reaches the eye’s photoreceptors.

How Do I Increase My MPOD?

If your MPOD level is below the recommendations, you can increase it with foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin, such as green leafy vegetables and eggs for lutein and corn for zeaxanthin. Other good sources are broccoli, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach and avocadoes for lutein and orange peppers for zeaxanthin.9  A study known as the Age Related Eye Disease Study 2, which was the landmark study by the National Eye Institute and which used FloraGLO Lutein, recommended 10 milligrams of lutein and 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin per day.10 Most Americans eat only 1 to 2 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin each day, so supplement sources are a good option for many people.11




1. Tosini G, et al. (2016). Mol Vis. 24: 22:61-72.                

2. Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). 2012. Health Effects of Artificial Light (http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/emerging/docs/scenihr_o_035.pdf).

3. Renzi et al.,2014. Relationships between macular pigment optical density and cognitive function in unimpaired and mildly cognitively impaired older adults. Neurobiol Aging., 35(7):1695.

4. Kelly D, Coen RF, Akuffo KO, Beatty S, Dennison J, Moran R, Stack J, Howard AN, Mulcahy R, Nolan J (2015) Cognitive function and its relationship with macular pigment optical density and serum concentrations of its constituent carotenoids. J Alzheimers Dis 48:261–277.

5. Hammond BR et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on photostress recovery, glare disability, and chromatic contrast. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 Dec 2;55(12):8583-9.

6. Stringham JM, and BR Hammond. Macular pigment and visual performance under glare conditions. Optometry and Vision Science 85: 82-88, 2008.

7. Ciulla, Opthalmology (2001) 108: 730-737.

8. Hammond, Recent Research Dev Nutr (2002). MPOD measured in density units. 

9. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 28, released September 2015, slightly revised May 2016) https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/

10. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group (2013) JAMA 309: 2005-2015, Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Research Group (2013) JAMA Ophthalmol 131: 843-850

11. Johnson E et al (2010) J Am Diet Assoc 110: 1357-1362.