BY CHRISTA SGOBBA
Want to keep your brain sharp? The answer might be on your plate: People who eat more lutein show brain responses similar to that of those years younger, a new study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience suggests.
In the study, researchers recruited 60 people ages 25 to 45, and measured their levels of a specific carotenoid called lutein, a nutrient found in green, leafy vegetables like spinach or kale, avocados, and eggs. Then, they measured their brain activity and neuron responses while performing an attention-heavy task.
Their findings? Older people who had higher levels of lutein displayed neural responses that were more on par with their younger counterparts who had lower levels of lutein, study author Anne Walk, Ph.D., said in a statement.
It seems like lutein plays a protective role in your brain, since the people with higher levels of it were able to devote more resources to completing the task.
The study didn’t look at how exactly the nutrient helps, but past studies have shown that lutein exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, which may help improve brain function.
Two important notes: The study couldn’t prove cause and effect, meaning we can’t say for sure whether it was the increase in lutein that was responsible for the attention boost. And it was also funded by the Haas Avocado Board—their produce, of course, which is a rich source of lutein.
Still, the study did undergo peer review, and the findings are intriguing. But before firm conclusions can be drawn, more research needs to be done: The research team is currently running intervention trials to see if actually increasing the amount of lutein in people’s diets can increase cognitive performance.