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Lutein linked to preservation of crystallized intelligence

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Reprinted with the kind permission of Life Extension.

December 14 2016. Research conducted at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign reveals an association between higher serum levels of the carotenoid lutein and better preservation of crystallized intelligence:  the ability to use knowledge and skills acquired over one’s lifetime. The findings were reported on December 6, 2016 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

"Previous studies have found that a person's lutein status is linked to cognitive performance across the lifespan," commented lead researcher Marta Zamroziewicz.

"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 included 76 cognitively normal men and women between the ages of 65 and 75 years. Blood samples were analyzed for serum levels of lutein and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measured gray matter volume in the temporal cortex. Crystallized intelligence was assessed by vocabulary and similarities tests.

Participants whose serum lutein levels were higher performed better in the crystallized intelligence tests and had thicker gray matter in the brain’s parahippocampal cortex, indicating healthier brain aging. "Our analyses revealed that gray-matter volume of the parahippocampal cortex on the right side of the brain accounts for the relationship between lutein and crystallized intelligence," stated co-lead researcher Aron Barbey. "This offers the first clue as to which brain regions specifically play a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence, and how factors such as diet may contribute to that relationship."

"We can only hypothesize at this point how lutein in the diet affects brain structure," he added. "It may be that it plays an anti-inflammatory role or aids in cell-to-cell signaling. But our finding adds to the evidence suggesting that particular nutrients slow age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific features of brain aging."

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