Lutein, a nutrient and organic carotenoid, can reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease, but a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience suggests it is also associated with counteracting cognitive aging.
Taking a new approach, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Georgia at Athens focused on 60 participants between the ages of 25 and 45. Most studies on aging focus on elderly adults, but these scientists believe cognitive aging starts earlier in life than one might expect.
Scientists measured tissues in the eyes' retinas with a non-invasive measurement (light flickering) to detect lutein and determine the correlation between the nutrient and cognitive aging.
Lutein's Role in Cognitive Aging
The researchers, led by Dr. Naiman Khan, found that participants in this study who had higher levels of lutein were more similar to younger individuals than to individuals of the same age with low lutein levels.
“…Lutein appears to have some protective role, since the data suggest that those with more lutein were able to engage more cognitive resources to complete the task.” explains Dr. Anne Walk, another scientist on the team.
More research is required before any firm evidence linking lutein and cognitive aging is made, but the lesson from this study is clear: eat your greens.
Lutein is not synthesized by the human body, which means we are reliant on outside sources to meet our nutritional needs. Lutein is a pigment (also known as carotenoid), which is found most commonly in kale, spinach, avocados, and eggs.
Almost all of these foods are accessible to people limited to any diet. Vegetables, and especially leafy greens, are one of the few food items most dieters from vegan, Paleo, or ketogenic can agree on.