Lutein is key to aging well: study

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A new study out of the University of Illinois suggests that lutein, a pigment found in leafy green vegetables, aids in the preservation of “crystallized intelligence.”

Lead researcher and U of I grad student Marta Zamroziewicz notes that lutein plays a “neuroprotective role” in the brain, aiding in the conservation of the skills and knowledge one has acquired over a lifetime.

“Previous studies have found that a person’s lutein status is linked to cognitive performance across the lifespan,” Zamroziewicz said. “Research also shows that lutein accumulates in the gray matter of brain regions known to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in healthy brain aging.”

The study, which involved 122 healthy participants aged 65 to 75, had subjects answer questions on a standard test of crystallized intelligence. Then, researchers collected blood samples to test blood serum levels of lutein. An MRI was also conducted to determine the volume of different brain structures.

Results showed that participants with higher blood serum levels of lutein did better on tests of crystallized intelligence. Zamroziewicz notes that while serum levels are only indicative of recent dietary intake, they are associated with brain concentrations of lutein in older adults, which reflect long-term dietary intake.

Moreover, those with higher serum lutein levels usually had thicker gray matter in the parahippocampal cortex. According to the researchers, this part of the brain is also preserved in healthy aging.

The results of this study are certainly promising. In order to keep your patients on the path to healthy aging, encourage them to eat lutein-abundant foods like leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and egg yolks. Additionally, a variety of lutein supplements are available on the market for those who need extra help.

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