A pigment in leafy greens preserves intelligence as you age

Harold Mandel's picture
Green leafy veggies

Researchers have found that a pigment which is found in leafy green veggies helps to the preserve "crystallized intelligence" in the elderly.

Advertisement

There are concerns as people age that they will lose the power of their minds. Good nutrition is an essential component of maintaining a sharp mind as you age.

A study has linked good nutrition to brain health and to intelligence in elderly adults

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reports a study has linked good nutrition to brain health and to intelligence in elderly adults. The researchers found an association between consuming a pigment which is found in leafy greens to the preservation of what has been termed “crystallized intelligence,” or the ability to utilize the skills and knowledge which a person has acquired over the course of their life.

Lutein is one of many plant pigments which people acquire through their diet. People get lutein primarily via eating leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, or cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. University of Illinois graduate student Marta Zamroziewicz, who led this study with Aron Barbey, an Illinois psychology professor, says that lutein accumulates in the brain. It embeds in cell membranes where it seems to play “a neuroprotective role.”

The lutein status of a person is associated with cognitive performance during a lifespan

Advertisement

Zamroziewicz has noted that in past studies it has been observed the lutein status of a person is associated with cognitive performance during a lifespan. Research has shown that lutein accumulates in the gray matter of brain regions which have been found to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in a healthy aging brain.

In this study researchers discovered that participants who had higher blood serum levels of lutein generally did better on tests dealing with crystallized intelligence. Although serum lutein levels reflect recent dietary intakes there is an association with brain concentrations of lutein in older adults, which reflects long-term dietary intake, according to Zamroziewicz.

Lutein may play an anti-inflammatory role or assist in cell-to-cell signaling in the brain

It was also noted that people with higher serum lutein levels generally had thicker gray matter in the parahippocampal cortex. This is a region of the brain that, like crystallized intelligence, has been found to be preserved in healthy aging brains. Zamroziewicz says it seems that lutein may play an anti-inflammatory role or assist in cell-to-cell signaling in the brain.

This study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. A novel structural mediation in the brain between lutein status and crystallized intelligence in elderly people has been found. This offers further evidence that there are specific nutrients which may slow or prevent features of cognitive decline due to an influence on specific features of brain aging. So why not eat more green leafy vegetables throughout life and particularly as you age in the best interest of attempting to maintain a healthy brain.

Share this content.

If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.
Advertisement