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Pigment Power
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Tuesday, 02 May 2017 15:47
Champaign, Illinois, April 2017—A study underway at the University of Illinois (UofI) links the consumption of a pigment found in leafy greens to the preservation of what scientists call “crystallized intelligence,” or the ability to use the skills and knowledge one has acquired over a lifetime.

Lutein is one of several plant pigments humans acquire through diet, primarily by eating leafy green vegetables, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, or egg yolks. Lutein accumulates in the brain, embedding in cell membranes, where it likely plays a neuroprotective role.

Scientists have found a person’s lutein status is linked to cognitive performance—by accumulating in the brain’s gray matter regions known to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in healthy brain aging.

The study enrolled 122 healthy participants aged 65-75 who solved problems and answers questions on a standardized test. Researchers of the study also collected blood samples to determine serum levels of lutein—and imaged participants’ brains using MRI to measure the volume of different brain structures. Of great interest was the temporal cortex region of the brain.

It was found that participants with higher blood serum levels of lutein tended to do better on tests of crystallized intelligence. Serum lutein levels reflect only recent dietary intakes, but are associated with brain concentrations of lutein in older adults, which reflect long-term dietary intake.

With all this, UofI scientists can only hypothesize how lutein in the diet affects brain structure. It may play an anti-inflammatory role, and aid in cell-to-cell signaling. Still, findings add to the evidence suggesting that particular nutrients slow age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific features of brain aging.

Scientists involved in the tests represented the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology at the UofI, Tufts University, Abbott Nutrition, and the Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory at the U. of I. in Urbana-Champaign.

Source: University of Illinois 
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