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Lutein for Learning?

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Lutein may help protect against cognitive decline

If it seems like spinach and avocadoes have been getting all the love lately - it’s because they have!  The buzz goes way beyond staying physically fit; we’re talking about staying cognitively fit too!  New research out of the University of Illinois suggests that people who had higher lutein stores had neural responses that were more on par with younger individuals than with peers.

What makes this study different is that the researchers chose to work with 60 young adults ages 25-45 vs other studies that chose to work with older adults that were already experiencing cognitive decline.  Removing the aging variable allowed them to determine more accurately how diet effects cognition (since younger people are more homogeneous as a group) and further hypothesize ways to keep mental decline at bay.    

Researchers measured lutein in the participants’ eyes before measuring neural activity in the brain while they performed a specific task that measured attention.  In addition to having quicker neural responses, investigators reasoned that those with higher lutein levels had protective characteristics as well.  The group was encouraged by the findings and is running further trials with hopes of understanding how more lutein in the diet relates to cognitive performance as well as learning and memory. 

Lutein is a carotenoid that is more commonly known to support eye health.  It accumulates in brain and eye tissue where it filters blue wavelengths to keep eye cells healthy, also slowing diseases like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.  Unfortunately, lutein isn’t a nutrient that the body can make more of on its own which makes eating foods like kale, spinach, avocado, eggs and broccoli very important.  Try this Vivacious Veggie Frittata for more brain power.

Published September 1, 2017

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