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Lutein Linked to Healthy Brain Aging

A recent study suggests that consuming lutein may improve “crystalized intelligence," which is the ability to remember and use skills acquired over a lifetime. Lutein accumulates in the brain and embeds in cell brains, where researchers hypothesize it plays a neuroprotective role.


Participants in the study included 122 healthy people between the ages of 65 and 75 who were given problems and questions on a standard test of crystallized intelligence. The researchers also collected blood samples from all of the participants in order to determine blood serum levels of lutein. In addition, they used MRI to measure the volume of different parts of the participants’ brains.


The researchers found that a higher blood serum level of lutein correlated with better scores on the crystallized intelligence tests. They noted that serum levels of lutein only show recent dietary intake but that in older adults they are associated with brain concentrations of lutein and are a reflection of long-term lutein intake.


They also noted thicker gray matter in the parahippocampal cortexes of the participants with higher lutein serum levels. This part of the brain is generally better preserved in people who have aged in a healthy manner.


Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted the study. It was published on December 6, 2016, in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.


Lutein is one of only two carotenoids that can build macular pigment. Lutein creates the yellow pigmentation of the macula, which is the part of the eye that provides protection from damaging blue light. If the yellow macular pigment is too thin, blue light can penetrate the retina and cause long-term damage. Previous studies also suggest that lutein may improve eye health, combat systemic inflammation, and ward off cataracts.


You can increase your lutein levels by consuming more green vegetables, corn, and egg yolk.

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